One of the most common skin conditions among those who exercise is chafing, which generally appears due to the constant and repetitive friction of the sports material used with the skin itself or due to trauma.
The friction of skin on skin during exercise causes these injuries to mostly occur in skin folds, such as the inside of the thighs, groin, armpits or chest.
High temperatures and humidity increase the likelihood of this type of injury, since the heat makes you sweat more, the skin softens and becomes more vulnerable.
The most frequent chafing problems in sport
Chafing in sport can present itself in different ways. The most frequent are abrasions or erosions, friction blisters and calluses.
Abrasions or erosions are relatively frequent, especially in contact sports, but also in sports where balls, rackets or other equipment are used. Treatment is mainly based on avoiding superinfection and drying the lesions while waiting for progressive healing.
Friction blisters are due to the intense friction which some areas of the body are subjected to, which causes a separation in the dermoepidermal junction. A warm and humid microenvironment encourages their onset. Treatment consists of carefully draining the exudate.
Calluses appear in areas exposed to repetitive trauma or friction and usually manifest in areas where blisters have previously appeared. Most calluses are not painful and can be an advantage in certain sports such as gymnastics, weightlifting, or tennis.
Ingrown nails: They are generally due to wearing inappropriate footwear or shoes that do not fit the shape of the foot, causing the nail to enter into the dermis, where it will cause a reaction as if it were a foreign body.
Chafing linked to certain exercise or sports
There are other more specific types of chafing that are closely linked to certain exercise or sports such as runner's nipple, swimmer's shoulder or black heel.
Runner's nipple is the irritation of the nipple due to constant rubbing with T-shirts or bras that cause erosions and fissures. Long-distance runners are the most susceptible to developing this type of injury. The use of soft semi-synthetic fabrics, cotton or silk will prevent these abrasions. It may also be helpful to cover the area with dressings or petroleum jelly.
Swimmer's shoulder consists of an erythematous plaque that appears on the shoulder of some freestyle swimmers as the result of irritation from rubbing with an unshaven chin. This is prevented by shaving before swimming.
Lastly, black heel is a typical sports injury with frequent stopping and accelerations, such as tennis or basketball. It presents as petechiae of a horizontal distribution at the upper end of the heel, which is asymptomatic and usually bilateral.
How can chafing be avoided?
With the appropriate measures, chafing from exercise can be prevented and even avoided by following this advice:
- It is important to keep the skin hydrated at all times. Moisturiser must be applied daily all over the body and particularly on the most vulnerable areas such as the feet and hands.
- Cut the toenails straight. It may also be helpful to put a piece of cotton under the side of the foot.
- Wear suitable sports clothing and footwear .
- Use felt pads. Calluses usually appear in areas exposed to repetitive trauma or friction as a result of exercise.
- Apply anti-chafing cream. It is advisable to use a sports chafing cream before exercising. In this way, a protective film will be created on the skin that will help prevent irritation.