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Tips for Dealing with Gymnast’s Hand Rips

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Tea bags to help treat gymnast hand rips

A gymnast’s hand rip after it has been treated using tea bags.

This was originally posted a few years ago, but I have had many questions about how to treat rips from swinging bars lately, so I figured it is time to republish it. This post contains affiliate links – if you make a purchase through any of these links I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.


At our gym when one of the pre-team girls comes to us with her first “rip”, the coaches usually make a big deal about it, letting her know she is now an official gymnast. Seems silly, but rips from swinging bars is part of the sport of gymnastics. But once a gymnast has a rip, how do treat it?

  • Have the gymnast go to the bathroom and wash her hands to remove any chalk and surface germs. Yes,it stings, but it still has to be done. Pat the rip dry with a paper towel.
  • Have an adult carefully trim any excess skin using sterilized scissors and apply Neosporin or similar antibiotic ointment. Cover with a bandage and then wrap the bandage with athletic tape to keep the bandage in place. This should get the gymnast through the remainder of practice.
  • Once at home, we swear by tea bags to reduce the pain and speed the healing of the rip. Prepare a cup of black tea using a tea bag according to the package directions. Remove the tea bag and place it in the freezer for a few minutes to cool. Apply the tea bag directly to the rip and leave it on there for 20 minutes or so. The tannic acid that occurs naturally in the tea is an amazing pain reliever! The tea bag will discolor the rip area, but only for a few days. It also helps speed the development of the new layer of skin.
  • Over the next few days be sure to keep the rip area moisturized to prevent cracking and reopening of the wound. My daughter uses Bag Balm or her favorite lip balm – like Carmex or Blistex Daily Conditioning Treatment.
  • During practice, cover the rip with a bandage and athletic tape or make a tape grip so your gymnast can continue training. It really is good practice for gymnasts to learn to swing bars with a rip because undoubtedly at some point in their gymnastics career they will get a rip right before a meet and need to know how to work through it.

The tea bag method is not the only way to treat rips, however, it is the one that most of the gymnasts in our gym use. You can also treat rips with Vitamin E applied directly to the rip, Neosporin + Pain ointment, and some gymnasts will tell you that Preparation H works well (since it contains medication for pain and to reduce swelling).

Once your gymnast is ready for grips – don’t worry, her coach will let you know when – she still may get rips.  For some girls, working bars with hand grips (I only recommend dowel grips with buckle closure) makes a big difference in their ability to swing bars and cut down on the number of rips.

Categories : Gymnastics, Injuries
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Resistance Training for Better Performance

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This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a small portion of the sale amount as a result of your purchase. There is no additional cost to you.
Thera-Band® Latex-Free Multi-Band Patient Packs / Light (Thera-Band Yellow, Red, and Green)

Resistance bands, therabands, kinetic bands – these versatile stretchy bands come in a variety of shapes, strengths, sizes and are called different names – but regardless of what you know them as, they can be an excellent supplement to strength and flexibility, which can help prevent injury, for any sport.

Resistance bands are inexpensive, portable, and the number of exercises you can use them for is limited only by your coaching imagination (and resistance training is safe for young athletes, too)!  Use lighter bands for younger athletes and the heavier bands for older, more experienced athletes. Educate athletes on the correct technique for each exercise and monitor them during exercise so you can make corrections to posture and form during the exercises.

Here are some great resources for resistance band training and conditioning ideas – some general and some sport-specific:

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Is it a Sprain or a Break?

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Is it a sprain or a break

If you have an athlete, there is going to come a time where they get injured. Ankle injuries are VERY common and can happen when you least expect it. So how do you know if it is a sprain or a break?

That photo is of my daughter’s ankle a few weeks ago. She had just finished cheer season and was returning to the dance studio. She did three classes and in the final 15 minutes of her last class of the night she did a leap – like the ones she has been doing since she was little – and for some strange reason she just landed wrong and ended up in a heap on the floor.

Her ankle swelled IMMEDIATELY (this is a clue).

I have been around kids and sports long enough to know that if an injury swells up immediately, you do not play the wait and see game. You go directly to the Emergency Room. No questions asked. GO.

When we got to the ER they immediately did x-rays and the x-ray did not reveal a break of any kind, so they diagnosed it as a sprain, gave her an air cast and sent her home.

I also know that the ER does not always get things right and that their job is to care for the critically injured/sick and as far as they were concerned this is not critical.

The next day I called the Pediatric Sports Medicine Orthopedic group that we have used in the past and they definitely wanted to see her.  They took a look at the same x-rays, spent some time talking with her, examining the injured area and they came back with a different diagnosis. Yes, there was a hairline fracture and significant soft tissue damage and she was best treated by putting her leg in a cast for three weeks.

In the end, there is no way you as a parent or a coach can diagnose a sprain versus a break yourself. Yes, there are some indicators – such as swelling, ability or inability to move the affected area, pain levels – but when in doubt, get it checked out. It could be the difference in your child returning to play in a few weeks versus dealing with months of recurring injuries, pain and discomfort.

Pink cast

My daughter is sporting a nice pink cast for the next few weeks, but I am confident that once it is removed, she will be healed and ready to get right back to cheering for basketball and for dance.


Categories : Injuries
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