Posted on November 3, 2015

Hand Care Notes by Derek Hill

“Ripped Hands Are an Injury”, Ben Bergeron…

…said to Whitney Gelin and other Games athletes as he stressed the importance of hand care to the group of athletes training with him. He asked them how many had “ripped” at the Games – and many had. Whitney reports that she did not rip, and she shared her not-so-secret strategy for hand protection during the Butterfly Pullup Clinic several Sunday afternoons ago.

Are ripped hands a badge of honor? Maybe. Is it something you really want to happen? Probably not. A rip is an injury. When you have a rip you won’t be able to perform to the best of your abilities. You may have to miss a few days of programmed WODs if you can’t do the movements. During a recent pull-up clinic at College Hill CrossFit, I took notes from 2 Games athletes (Whitney and Tracy) and a former collegiate gymnast (Gilly).

Grips –

There are many different types of grips out there. You can make your own tape grips, you can purchase tape grips or gymnastics grips. Your best bet is to make some tape grips and wear those under gymnastics grips. This doesn’t guarantee you won’t rip, but it’s the strategy that helped Whitney Gelin survive Murph in the 2015 CrossFit games without any hand injuries.

Preventative Maintenance Tips –

Take care of your calluses daily. Take a moment to use a pumice stone while you shower every day.

Shave your calluses at least weekly. Dry shaving is recommended because you won’t cut as deeply. While you want to remove some of the callus you don’t want to go too deep. Calluses are your friends. If the callous gets too thick it becomes a “fulcrum for friction” which will just rip even worse. With time, you will develop a sense of what is just right.

Use lotion* daily to keep your hands moisturized.

After a Rip -

After a rip you need to clean your hands with soap and water. Some recommend that you *pee on them (more about this in a minute), then clean them again. It’s going to burn, expect it and deal with it. For the first 24-48 hours, keep triple antibiotic ointment on the rip so that the deep base layer can heal and mature without cracking and bleeding. Use clean, sharp scissors to trim away the loose skin.

There are also *lotions / salves available from many companies in the CF community that help with rip recovery and maintenance.


Did you really say pee on my hands? Yes, peeing on your hands is a frequently discussed homeopathic treatment for wound treatment and foot fungus issues (amongst others). Tracy has gone so far to say that she thinks the best practice is to pee on your hands daily to help protect from infection and ripping.

In sum, treat your hands like the brilliantly designed, complex apparatuses that they are –the point of contact between you and the bar, wall ball, floor, food, and loved ones - and the skin on your hands as the thin barrier between you and exposure to and transfer of all sorts of pathogens. Protect your hands from rips by using proper protection for workouts, taking good care of them with the ongoing maintenance of buffing, shaving, and use of *urea-based lotions, and supporting recovery with wound care whenever necessary.


The truth about pee:

*It is widely believed that urine is sterile and that it sterilizes the wound, but urine is not sterile (bacteria are present in ALL areas of the human body: the bladder, the uterus, AND the brain), so it doesn’t offer any sterilizing effects to wounds. Urine contains urea, a waste product of the breakdown of proteins (mostly), and other excess salts not needed to maintain the water balance in your body. So, it WILL burn if you pee on your open would, but only about as much as the water or soap burns. The more carefully studied action of urea (also called carbamide) is that it improves the barrier function of the skin by positively impacting a water trapping process (moisturizing), it stimulates a keratin breakdown process for smoothing rough skin, and it stimulates gene activity to increase antimicrobial responses.

Urea (and carbamide) are now present in concentrations up to 20% in numerous skin creams for the treatment of a variety of conditions from rough and bumpy skin, dry and cracking skin, to anti-aging elixirs in cosmetics. Natural urea from urine is safe, if not very appealing, as is synthetic urea in the forms of carbamide, carbamidic acid, psuedourea, and urophil found commonly in lotions, balms, and salves; but be wary of some synthetic urea compounds, some of which (Germal® I and II) can be so modified as to have attached molecules that will degrade into formaldehyde (a known carcinogen).



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