Turf Burns: What To Do With Them
It seems there has been an explosion of turf fields all around the U.S. While these pristine looking fields bring along many benefits–they are always green, you can use them any time of year, and they are easy to maintain–they also bring with them a common new injury: turf burns.
If you have ever played a sport on a turf field you know exactly what I am talking about. After making a goal-saving slide tackle or after making that diving one-handed catch for the first down you look down to find a surprise waiting for you on your leg: a raw, raspberry-colored wound. I have personal experience with the annoyance of turf burns after an untimely collision on the soccer field left half of my face covered in turf burn. Let’s just say that it stung a little.
The following is a brief list of the reasons why I hate turf burns. I believe that many of these reasons will resonate with you.
1. They take forever to heal. By forever I mean 3-4 weeks if you are lucky enough not to re-aggravate the wound.
2. They are normally in places where they get aggravated and reopened a lot; e.g., knees, legs, elbows, forearms, hip, etc.
3. They usually don’t bleed when the burn is inflicted, but when the scab is broken it bleeds all over.
4. They sting like mad for the first few days. You cringe at the thought of showering because it hurts too much.
5. They are practically unavoidable. You still get them even if you are wearing long sleeves or long pants.
6. They are normally over a large surface area, and who has extra large bandages just lying around?
7. Did I mention that they hurt?
Turf burns are actually mislabeled as burns; they are more of an abrasion. So what is an abrasion?
Abrasions are wounds caused by superficial damage to the skin no deeper than the epidermis.
In other words, an abrasion is when friction rips off that top layer of your skin. Therefore, turf burns are caused by the friction generated when you skid or slide on that artificial turf. That friction can rip off your top layer of skin with the same efficiency as sandpaper. Plus, the heat generated from that friction will burn you too. It is as if you are rubbing sandpaper across your body every time you dive, slide or sacrifice your body to catch that game-winning fly ball.
To get into even more detail, you can actually inflict yourself with two different kinds of abrasions:
1. A first-degree abrasion involves only epidermal injury.
2. A second-degree abrasion can be recognized if there is bleeding involved because you’ve caused injury to both your epidermis and dermis layer.
To make matters worse, most abrasions can be extremely painful. Normally that soreness will remain present for weeks until the wound has healed. This pain can have an impact in your level of performance on the field, and we all know how important that is.
Here comes everyone’s favorite part: trying to find a way to get rid of that turf burn as fast and as convenient as possible. The key to accomplishing this goal is through proper treatment. Proper treatment of turf burn is essential to expedite the healing process, to reduce the potential for scarring and to avoid infection.
Step 1: Stop The Bleeding
Apply pressure with a clean cloth or sterile gauze to stop any bleeding that might occur. Bleeding from most turf burns will generally stop with a few minutes of pressure, although weeping of clear fluids may continue after bleeding has ceased.
Step 2: Clean The Wound
Clean the turf burn abrasion thoroughly. All sort of debris and dirt may remain in the turf burn, so make sure you rinse it off.
Step 3: Protect The Wound
Traditionally people have applied Neosporin, but Neosporin can have negative side effects such as burning, redness, or irritation of the skin.* These side effects can be caused by an allergic reaction to the antibiotics in Neosporin. Neomycin allergy is the most common and it appears that more people are becoming sensitive to Neomycin. Instead, I would suggesting applying a natural wound dressing gel such as Armor Gel. Armor Gel is a nano-silver based hydrogel that can reduce the level of common microorganisms. Even better is that Armor Gel can protect against MRSA, a bacteria strain that has become increasing prevalent and resistant to most modern antibiotics. Armor Gel is also a better choice than other chemicals such as peroxide or alcohol because Armor Gel does not cause pain or further damage the wounded skin. Armor Gel will instead provide a clear protective barrier. By protecting the body from external bacteria, the body’s natural healing process can be expedited.
Step 4: Bandage and Hydrate The Wound
Apply a hydrogel and cover the turf burn. A hydrogel will keep the abrasion moist when combined with a bandage that seals the area around the wound. Keeping the turf burn moist will expedite the healing process and help prevent the turf burn from scabbing and scarring. Lucky for you, Armor Gel is also a hydrogel and can be used for both steps three and four.
Step 5: Replace Bandage
Replace the dressing and bandage every day during the first week. Check for signs of infection which can be identified by increased redness or a foul odor. If you see signs of infection immediately contact your health care provider! Make sure to reapply the hydrogel you use.
Most turf burns will heal within a week using a moist dressing. When you see that the abrasion is covered with new pink skin, you can remove the dressing.
Personally, I would always prefer to play on a level, well-trimmed grass field, but those can be hard to come by and require a lot of upkeep. Turf has it’s advantages like being playable all year-round and for that I am willing to take on the burns so I can keep playing the sports I love. Just make sure to take care of your turf wounds early and often so you can get back to full form as soon as possible.