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How to Care for a Skin Injury on the Field or Court

Author: Niki L. Carayannopoulos, DO

Unfortunately, injuries and sports go hand-in-hand. The good news is that with some basic wound-dressing knowledge, many coaches, players and parents can care for minor skin injuries themselves while on the court or field.

A new infographic from National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), which teaches the basics of caring for sports-related skin injuries, should be in every locker room and gear bag. Let’s take a closer look together at “Taking the Sting Out of Skin Injuries.”

Caring for Skin Injuries

Common skin injuries in sports include: lacerations, incisions, blisters, abrasions, avulsions (“tearing away”) and punctures. When properly treated, advises NATA, an acute skin injury will heal faster with decreased risk of infection and adverse reactions.

Please note, it’s important to see a physician as soon as possible if a wound is heavily contaminated, involves tendon or nerve injury, becomes warm, develops drainage, is painful, forms a rash, is slow to heal or deep, because it might require sutures or staples.

Cleaning and Dressing

If the skin injury does not meet any of the above criteria, than self-care may be appropriate. Follow these tips from NATA, or consult with a professional healthcare provider:

    • Clean the wound and surrounding skin thoroughly with saline or tap water irrigation as soon as possible.
    • Don’t scrub or swab the wound since this won’t reduce bacteria and can damage healing skin.
    • Be cautious when using antiseptics to clean wounds, as they can be toxic to skin tissue.
    • After the initial cleaning, the wound should only be cleaned if it becomes visibly contaminated or infected.
    • Any debris should be removed prior to dressing the wound. (A health care provider should debride the wound if there are large amounts of debris.)
    • The wound should be covered, rather than left uncovered, until fully healed.
    • Cover the wound with nonocclusive dressings (sterile gauze, non adherent pads, adhesive strips and patches) or occlusive dressings (films, foams and hydrocolloids). Occlusive dressings, available at pharmacies, are preferred since they create an optimal healing environment.

After Care & Follow-Up Care

    • Monitor for signs of infection, such as fever, pain, edema (swelling), warmth or delayed wound healing.
    • Monitor for adverse reactions that can come from some cleaning solutions, topical antimicrobial agents and dressings, such as rash, white discoloration, tenderness or a burning sensation.
    • Have the wound area inspected by an athletic trainer or sports medicine provider daily throughout the healing process.

Visit Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics

To schedule an appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine & Orthopedics, please call (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.

Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.