Yes… it happens to almost all of us. Once we find CrossFit, our once soft, supple hands turn into rough, dry, and often-peely messes. And those calluses (aka badges of honor) will often turn into something that looks like the drug-deal-gone-bad shower scene from Scarface. When hard work meets steel barbells and rigs, it’s all but impossible to avoid those nasty tears. But want to know the best treatment for a hand tear? Well, it’s simple, don’t rip in the first place! Hand care outside of the gym and knowing when a tear is coming is the best way not to deal with the painful, pesky tears that occur with volume barbell (e.g. hang snatches) or rig (e.g. pull-ups, toes-to-bar) and even kettlebell WODs. But if you do happen to tear… here are some best practices for getting those suckers healed up and you back on the bar.
So, how can you keep your hands in tip top shape?
First, make sure you’re shaving or sanding down your calluses. There are several methods for this… one is this fancy shmancy blade trimmer and grinder. And there’s this sander designed by and for CrossFitters. Jay from Wayland and I use this fairly religiously and it certainly helps us avoid the embarrassing pile of skin that remains on a conference room floor after a nasty picking bout with an untrimmed callus. Grossies. After a good sanding session, and throughout the day, make sure you’re using moisturizers to keep palms from drying out and more prone to cracks and rips.
Then, if you do see a vicious WOD that calls for 100 pull ups or toes-to-bar or anything else requiring you to hang from the rig, go get yourselves a pair of inexpensive grips. Unfortunately, grips are a bit like sneakers or jump ropes… you have to try a few before you find the ones that work for you. Here’s a list of options for you… and here is Mel’s go to grip (and she knows rips… just youtube it). We also have a few house pairs that are kept under the athletic tape and lacrosse balls. Feel free to try some of those out.
Okay, now you’re working out and you feel a tingle in your hands… what now?
While hand care and grips can certainly help, it’s still very much possible to tear even with those precautions. So if you feel a cold sensation or an increase in pain, STOP. Just STOP. No need to get that last few reps if it costs you your palm. Just find your coach, ask for a substitute movement and keep your WOD on.
Crud, I ripped. And it’s gross. What do I do? (Viewer discretion advised… just kidding… sort of)
If the blister or wound is still very much covered by in tact skin, then you’re best to clean it off and let the skin act as a natural band-aid. That’s if you’re lucky.
However, if it’s a “dangling chad” and it’s flapping in the breeze, you’re going to have to remove it. You’re not gonna like step one, but you have to go clean it out. And yes, it’s gonna sting. After a good soak/clean, find some nail clippers or better yet, cuticle clippers and remove any loose skin around the wound.
Next, get some antibacterial cream (e.g. Bacitracin or Neosporin) and put a dollop directly on the wound. Then, get yourself some of the “second skin” type bandages… our favorite is located here. Cut the bandage larger than the wound and simply cover the entire area up nice and tight. Leave it on for as long as it remains adhered to the skin. Change maybe one every day or so, but keep in covered for at least 3-4 days. By then, you’ll have a new layer of skin and you can lose the bandage. We’d recommend not attempting additional bar movements for about a week to avoid risk of re-injury.
Thanks Daybreak! I just did those 83 toes-to-bar and 83 hang power snatches the other day and I’m gonna put my Amazon Prime to good use now.