Hand Tears and CrossFit: How to prevent, treat, and work around torn up hands.
Ripped hands are common occurrence in any box and something of a rite of passage for the uninitiated crossfitter. You’ve probably seen pictures of them on your friends’ social media streams in the past, or hey, maybe even posted one yourself (guilty). The truth is, hand tears are fairly common in CrossFit—but they don’t have to be. While I can’t guarantee you’ll never tear open a callous again, there are some steps you can take to increase your odds of surviving the WOD without maiming the flesh of your palms.
Prevention Outside of the Gym: Hand Care 101
The first step to preventing torn hands is to give them some regular TLC outside of the box. If you are a total newbie, it will take a few weeks for your hands to toughen up. Just be patient and know the sore blistery feeling you get after too much bar work will go away as your skin thickens up and you develop some super sexy callouses. These callouses are a good thing, and will provide a tough, durable surface for handling barbells, kettlebells, and pull up bars. Once you develop some of those bad boys, they should be filed or shaved down regularly so that they are still present but flush with the skin on your hand. Raised areas and ridges are a no-no. Guys, if you have particularly thick callouses, a foot callous shaver (or an actual straight razor) is helpful to actually cut away some of the thick skin, and then you can buff it down smooth with a metal nail file, pumice stone, ped egg, or dremel tool (only half kidding?)Next, keep your hands moisturized outside of the gym. You don’t have to come to the box slathered in Jergens, but it does help if you do use some kind of moisturizer or balm between WODs, as dry skin is more likely to crack and tear. Using Chalk will dry them out considerably as well, so be consistent about washing your hands after you work out, and putting some sort of moisturizer on them post-WOD and before bed at night.
Now that we’ve covered the ways to prevent hand tears, let’s go over what to do when it does happen because sometimes, even if you take the right precautionary measures, it will happen anyway. When you tear your hands we suggest using soap and water or saline rinse to clean the wound. Some people prefer to cut the loose skin away, but others leave it there, claiming it is like a natural “band aid”. You should then use Neosporin or some other antibiotic ointment to help it heal faster and prevent it from getting infected, covering with a band aid overnight. Always be sure to use a Clorox wipe to clean your bar immediately post-WOD because, you know, blood borne pathogens. While we are one big family here at CFH, one thing we aren’t into sharing is preventable disease. If you start to feel your hand tearing mid-WOD, in most cases you should switch to ring rows or a band (if doing pull ups) or just do hanging knee raises (if toes to bar). Generally speaking, ripping your hands to shreds is not worth the RX–because it means now you won’t be able to train well (or do simple things, like wash your hair) for the rest of the week. So unless you are competing or shooting for a new PR on Cindy or some other benchmark, don’t feel like a pussy if you have to come down off the bar and scale. It’s actually the smart thing to do. You can and should continue coming to the gym even if you have a hand tear. You may have to stick to lower body movements for the first day or so, and will be limited with certain movements, but like with any injury (and yes, it’s considered an injury), there are always ways to work around it.
You can make gymnastic grips with athletic tape that will put a barrier between your injured hands and the bar, which should help keep you in the game, however, you might want to cool it completely on kipping until it heals. Faster and Rogue also sell suede-like gymnastic grips which offer similar protection for when you have torn up hands.
Just be sure to prep those paws before the WOD and decide for yourself if letting them tear is worth not being able to pick up a bar for 4 days.