Reducing Risk in Sports: Caring for common skin injuries

Reducing Risk in Sports: Caring for common skin injuries


Reducing Risk in Sports: Caring for common skin injuries


Regardless of your sport, all athletes are likely to encounter a skin injury at some point. Injuries that commonly occur during athletic participation include blisters, lacerations, abrasions and puncture wounds. When they are properly treated, these wounds typically heal faster and with a lower risk of infection and adverse reactions.

Your school’s athletic trainer can evaluate your injury and will have supplies available to manage it. Here are some basic treatment tips to keep in mind when you do sustain a skin injury:

  • The wound and surrounding skin should be thoroughly cleansed with tap water or saline irrigation as soon as possible. Be cautious when using antiseptics to clean wounds since they can be toxic to skin tissue.
  • After an initial thorough cleansing, further cleansing should only be done if the wound becomes contaminated or infected.
  • Scrubbing or swabbing of the wound should be avoided because it can damage the healing skin and will not reduce the bacteria.
  • Debris should be removed from the wound before dressings are applied. Have your athletic trainer or other health care professional take care of this for you.
  • Until fully healed, the wound should be covered, rather than left uncovered, with occlusive dressings (films, foams and hydrocolloids) or nonocclusive dressings (sterile gauze, nonadherent pads, adhesive strips and patches). Occlusive dressings, available at pharmacies, are preferred because they create an optimal environment for healing, lessen the risk of infection and adverse reactions and can stay in place over wounds for longer periods than nonocclusive dressings.

As you heal, have the wound checked every day. Your athletic trainer will look for:

  • adverse reactions that can come from some cleaning solutions, topical antimicrobial agents and dressings: rash, white discoloration, tenderness or burning
  • signs of infection: fever, pain, swelling, warmth, or delayed wound healing
  • how the wound is healing: you will be advised on how often to change dressings

You should be seen by a physician as soon as possible if your skin injury:

  • is deep and requires sutures or staples
  • is heavily contaminated
  • involves tendon or nerve injury
  • becomes warm
  • develops drainage
  • is painful
  • forms a rash
  • is slow to heal

For more advice on skin injuries, talk to your athletic trainer and check out NATA’s infographic handout. Visit for additional sports safety tips for athletes and parents.


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