Skin Conditions With Sports

Sports Dermatology

Skin problems are extremely common among athletes.

Close physical contact during sports increases the risk of skin infections. As a result, skin infections are more prevalent in top athletes than in the general population. The training environment is frequently the source of infection since it is in warm and humid weather. Here are some skin conditions associated with Sports:

Examples of the Skin Conditions

Bacterial Skin Infections

Outbreaks of furuncles may spread within an athletic team due to direct contact with infected individuals.

Factors associated with the spread of furunculosis include the lack of readily available shower facilities, sharing of athletic pads, and sharing of towels. Your loofah sponges could be hiding a reservoir of Pseudomonas bacteria

Prevention of Contagious Skin Infections

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) can be transmitted by skin to skin contact during any contact sport. Herpes gladiatorum is often a major problem among wrestlers.

Oral antiviral drugs can be used to shorten the course of an outbreak and as long-term or periodic prophylaxis.

Other infectious diseases, including pyogenic infections and tinea corporis (of the body), can be spread by means of contact sports. Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) may be spread on floors around swimming pools. Tinea infection is particularly common among wrestlers.

Cold Injury

Skin injuries, such as frostbite, are seen in sports enthusiasts who engage in cold weather sports. The decreased oxygen tension at high altitudes contributes to peripheral vasoconstriction, and decreased peripheral blood flow increases the risk of frostbite.

Frostbite is also a problem among joggers and may occur on the face, hands, feet, and male genitalia.

Clothing must remain dry in order to retain its insulating properties. Frequent changes of socks and periodic breaks in a warm environment are important safeguards. If frostbite occurs, rapid rewarming should be accomplished as soon as the individual is in a safe environment with no risk of refreezing. In rare occasions, frostbite may be related to the use of ice packs in a training environment.

Friction Blisters

Proper fitting of footwear and the use of gloves and chalk can reduce the chance of blistering. Heat, sweating, and maceration increase the risk of blistering.

Mesh top footwear can decrease the risk of blistering by providing a cooler, dryer environment without the use of antiperspirants.

Small blisters should be left intact to maintain sterility. An adhesive bandage or thin self-adhesive dressing can be applied over the area, or a “doughnut” of moleskin can be applied around the blister to reduce any discomfort.

Larger blisters should be drained. The blister roof must be left in place as a biological dressing. A thin self-adhesive hydrocolloid dressing can be applied over the entire lesion.

Calluses and Corns (Clavi)

Callus formation is a physiologic protective mechanism. Large calluses can interfere with function and may require treatment.

Corns are particularly common in golfers. Prevention requires properly fitted footwear. Cushioning pads and metatarsal pads can be helpful.

Athlete’s Nodules

Collagenous (surfer’s nodules) are complications of surfboarding. Boxers and football players are also prone to collagenous nodules.

These nodules occur at areas of pressure, trauma, and friction. This may require surgical excision.




Actinic Damage

Actinic irradiation can cause burns and a risk of skin cancer in later life. Sweating alters hydration of the stratum corneum and lowers the minimal erythema dose (MED) to ultraviolet B (UVB) by as much as 40.9 percent after just 15 min of jogging.

Sun exposure may reactivate orolabial herpes infections. Oral antiviral drugs can be used effectively to prevent herpes’ reactivation following sun exposure.


Exercise-associated urticarial reactions include cholinergic (from sweat) urticaria, solar (sun) urticaria, pressure-induced urticaria, cold urticaria, aquagenic (water) urticaria, and exercise-induced anaphylaxis, which is the most severe of these reactions.

Acneiform Lesions

Acne Mechanica is common among athletes. It is caused by physical contact including pressure, occlusion, and friction. It commonly occurs under chin straps, helmets, and shoulder pads.

Skin Problems due to Water Sports

  • Swimmers are prone to xerosis (dryness), especially during winter. Triggering factors include loss of skin oil and chlorine exposure while swimming, as well as long showers after swimming and the irritating liquid soap often supplied by the pool. Prevention and treatment include using mild soap and cooler water, and application of oil before swimming and a moisturizer after showering.
  • Exposure to the rough surfaces of diving boards can result in a chronic plantar dermatosis.
  • The fingers can also be affected. The rough interior of swimming pools can result in “pool palms.” The skin appears taut, shiny, and erythematous with loss of skin markings

Avoidance of rough pool surfaces will result in healing.

  • Waterslide alopecia is symmetric alopecia patches of the posterolateral aspects of the calves. The patches are associated with repeated frictional trauma to the areas.
  • Green hair is related to copper in pool water. Copper pipes or algicides may be the source of the high copper levels. Acidic pH, fluoridation of water, and swimming pool chlorination all contribute to the release of copper into the pool water.

Green hair has been treated with hot vegetable oil or hydrogen peroxide.

  • Seabather’s eruption occurs under the bathing suit area. Jellyfish Larvae is behind some of these outbreaks. The eruption runs its course in about 2 weeks.

Showering with one’s bathing suit off after sea bathing reduces the incidence of the eruption. 

Other Skin Problems Related to Sea Water

  • Corals, especially fire coral, can produce contact dermatitis in divers. Their stinging cells produce a powerful irritant that can produce severe local reactions, including reactions that resemble full-thickness burns.
  • Jellyfish stings cause both immediate pains and delayed allergic reactions. Local reactions may be severe and can result in gangrene and contractures. Delayed allergic reactions generally consist of local reactivation, but generalized reactions can also occur.

Cold packs provide effective analgesia during the acute painful stage of jellyfish stings.

  • Pseudomonas infections are commonly associated with water.
  • Hot tub, whirlpool, and swimming pool folliculitis present with intensely pruritic papules and pustules involving groins and “bathing suit” areas. Outbreaks are associated with both chlorine- and bromine-treated water.
  • Diving suit dermatitis is an unusual manifestation of Pseudomonas folliculitis that presents as widespread crusted papules and pustules on the trunk and extremities. The lesions are painful rather than pruritic and are restricted to areas covered by the wetsuit.

Are you experiencing any of these skin conditions with sports? Book an appointment for a personalized diagnosis and treatment plan.

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