Skin Conditions and Sports Participation (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Most skin conditions do not affect sports
participation. As a general rule, young people with skin conditions should be
allowed to participate in sports as long as there is no risk of blood or body
fluid coming into contact with other athletes. Skin conditions that may affect
participation can be divided into temporary and long-term conditions.

Temporary skin conditions

Temporary skin conditions that may affect sports
activities include

  • Skin injuries. Injuries
    like cuts and scrapes must be covered to prevent blood or body fluid
    from coming into contact with another player.

  • Friction blisters. These
    can be prevented by drying the feet, lubricating with petrolatum, and
    ensuring proper shoe fit. Blisters already formed can be left alone and
    covered with a bandage or carefully drained. The top of the blister
    generally should not be removed.

  • Jogger’s nipple.
    Friction of fabric against the nipples can cause chafing and bleeding.
    It can be prevented in women by the use of sports bras, and in men by
    applying petrolatum or tape, or wearing synthetic or silk shirts.

  • Poison ivy/oak. This rash
    is due to allergy to the plants. It is not contagious. However, open
    sores or blisters must be covered so that no fluid can come in contact
    with another player.

Skin infections

Athletes with visible signs of skin infection
should not be allowed to participate in contact, collision, or limited-contact
sports. This can help prevent the spread of infection to other athletes. These

  • Fever blisters and cold
    These are caused by the herpesvirus. They look like
    clusters of small blisters that soon dry out and form scabs.

  • Herpes gladiatorum. A type
    of herpes infection in wrestlers causing lesions on the skin. This
    infection is very contagious and can spread quickly among teammates or
    opponents. These look similar to fever blisters at other places on the

  • Boils and impetigo. Boils
    are tender red knots with small white or yellow pus heads on top.
    Impetigo has large blisters filled with pus or shallow raw areas covered
    with yellow scabs. These infections are usually caused by
    Staphylococcus bacteria. Sometimes the
    Staphylococcus can be treated easily with
    antibiotics. At other times, however, it may be an antibiotic-resistant
    strain (also called MRSA). This resistant germ can
    cause serious illness if not recognized and treated early.

  • Ringworm. This infection is
    caused by a fungus, similar to the fungus that causes athlete’s
    foot. It may look like a round or oval patch with pink or red raised
    edges covered by fine flakes of skin. The center may look normal.
    Ringworm fungal infection in wrestlers is commonly called tinea

  • Scabies. A very itchy rash
    that is highly contagious. It looks like small pink or red bumps and is
    often found on the hands between fingers and on the wrist.

Long-term skin conditions

Athletes with long-term skin problems are not
usually limited in their sports participation. Some conditions require special
care to prevent making the skin problem worse. This includes

  • Psoriasis and vitiligo.
    Athletes need to protect their skin from scrapes to avoid making the
    skin problem flare.

  • Sun sensitivity problems.
    Athletes should use sunblock and wear hats and sun-protective

  • Inherited blistering
    Athletes must use protective padding and avoid
    friction injuries as much as possible.

  • Hives. Athletes may have
    flares during sports activities and should have medicine available.

Skin conditions and how they affect sports participation

Condition What Must the Athlete Do? Is It OK to Participate?
Minor cuts, scrapes Must be covered to prevent blood transfer to other players.
Bandage should be waterproof.
Yes if special care is taken
Friction blisters If new, leave intact. If open, cover with bandage. Yes
Jogger’s nipple Sports bras for women; petrolatum or tape for men. Yes
Poison ivy/oak Must cover open sores or blisters. Yes
Psoriasis Try to prevent scrapes. Yes
Vitiligo Try to prevent scrapes. Yes
Impetigo, boils Potentially contagious. No
Acne No limitations as long as no open wounds. Yes
Herpes, fever blisters Potentially contagious. No
Warts Potentially contagious. Yes, if solitary or localized warts can be securely covered
Ringworm fungus Potentially contagious. No
Sun sensitivity problems Must use sunblock and wear hat and sun-protective clothing. Yes if special care is taken
Inherited blistering disorders Must use protective padding and avoid friction injury. Yes if special care is taken
Hives May experience flares from heat or exertion. Yes if special care is taken
Other long-term skin problems In general, no limitations. Yes