Despite every attempt to prevent rips, chances are that sometime in a gymnast’s career an athlete is going to have to deal with rips on the hands. For the beginner gymnast, rips usually happen because the hands are not yet accustomed and toughened to work for very long on bars. More advanced gymnasts usually rip because of long bar practices or because they did not tend to the calluses on their hands.
What causes these annoying rips? Friction on the hand as the gymnast swings on a bar causes tears on the flesh of the hand. As a gymnast continues with bar activities, the body forms calluses to protect the hands with extra tissue. If these calluses get too large or thick, then rips are more likely to occur. An athlete should discuss how to best tend to these calluses with a coach. Dry skin can also lead to rips. Chalk helps to decrease the friction between the gymnast’s hand and the bar, but it is also very drying to the skin. Some athletes need to use a daily hand moisturizer to maintain skin pliability.
According to Alicia Lysiuk at St. Vincent Sports Performance, taking care of a rip is like taking care of any other type of wound. The gymnast should remember the two “C’s” – clean and cover. The rip should be cleaned with antibacterial soap to prevent infection. Keeping the rip covered is usually the most difficult task for the gymnast. Lysiuk recommends an “H” shaped bandage for rips underneath the fingers. She then suggests a roll of tape be used to create a protective grip. Most rips take three to five days to heal. During this time an antibiotic ointment or moisturizer should be used.
While a rip is not a serious injury, it can definitely be uncomfortable and it is important to care for it correctly. At Emeth, when our gymnasts rip for the first time, we try to be encouraging by congratulating them for being such a hard worker. Being able to deal with rips the right way and continue working hard at bars, which is usually the most challenging event, is the trait of a determined and successful gymnast!