President Barack Obama (here just a candidate on the campaign trail) fist bumps Ethan Gibbs, the son of his campaign finance manager Robert Gibbs, in Dallas on Oct. 22, 2008. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Though long used to give props, the fist bump is getting some actual respect.
The gesture, once dubbed a “terrorist fist jab,” could become the new way to greet your doctor after a study found that fist-bumping passes along significantly fewer germs than shaking hands or high-fiving.
“People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands,” lead author Dr. David E. Whitworth said in a press release. “If the general public could be encouraged to fist-bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.”
Other alternative greetings, such as the World Health Organization’s elbow bump, haven’t taken off because of the cultural expectation of hand-to-hand contact.
In the study, researchers from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the U.K. conducted simulated greetings with sterile and E. coli-coated gloves. Nearly twice as many bacteria were transferred during handshakes than high fives; a fist bump, meanwhile, only transferred 10 percent of the bacteria.
The researchers theorized that the higher speed as well as lower surface area of contact could be behind the fist bump’s relatively hygiene safety.
This research follows a call last month by the Journal of the American Medical Association for an end to handshakes.
According to the Centers foe Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1 in 25 hospitalized patients contracts a health care-associated infection, with 75,000 of them dying annually.