In some ways, turf may be safer than grass. For example, it provides more cushioning than grass during winter.
However, turf burn is a significant downside of playing on this surface. A fall onto the turf is likely to result in injury.
Sports that people commonly play on turf include football, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey.
What is turf burn?
A turf burn can cause loss of skin layers.
Turf burn is an injury that results from friction rather than heat. When people fall hard on the turf, the friction of the turf against their exposed skin causes red abrasions.
Friction can lead to the loss of skin layers, potentially allowing an open wound to develop. Turf burn is very painful, and touching the burn is likely to sting.
Turf burn is more likely to occur on the thighs, knees, palms of the hands, and the arms. It can be large or small, depending on the fall.
The immediate treatment of turf burn is essential for helping it heal. A medic or teammate can treat the turf burn on-site using a basic first aid kit.
Treating turf burn quickly may also reduce the risk of infection. People who play sports often have a higher risk of skin infections as they experience skin abrasions more frequently. The increased physical contact they have with other people and shared equipment can also make transmission more likely.
Skin wounds are prone to bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (staph). Everyone carries staph bacteria on their skin.
If the skin breaks, the bacteria can enter the body and cause an infection. People should avoid touching the burn with their bare hands.
People can treat a turf burn by following these steps:
- Wash the hands before cleaning the wound and wear sterile gloves if possible.
- If the wound is bleeding, hold a clean bandage or dressing firmly against the burn until the bleeding stops.
- Clean any sand and dirt out of the wound with saline solution or water and mild soap, if available. Pat the wound dry with a clean cloth. It is vital to remove all the dirt and debris to reduce the risk of infection, even if this is very painful.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. Aloe vera is a suitable alternative to use if antibiotic ointment is not available. Aloe vera is cooling and acts as an extra barrier to bacteria. Research suggests that it may also have wound-healing properties. If topical ointment or aloe vera causes too much pain, just cover the clean, dry wound.
- Place a non-stick medical dressing over the wound.
- Cover the dressing with a breathable cotton bandage. The bandage will help to hold the dressing in place.
People can speed the healing of a turf burn and lower the risk of infection by:
- washing the wound with mild soap and water
- keeping the burn clean and free of dust and debris
- using hydrogel to keep the wound moist
- applying a wound dressing underneath the bandage to encourage healing
- changing the dressing every day
- using an aloe vera gel, antiseptic cream, or antibiotic ointment before covering the burn
- washing the hands before touching the wound or bandages
Preventing turf burns is not easy. Each time the players fall onto the artificial turf, they risk getting new turf burns.
To avoid turf burns, people can wear protective clothing that does not expose too much skin, such as long sleeve shirts, spandex shorts, and long socks.
Shin pads can offer additional protection, particularly for sports that make a person prone to leg injuries, such as soccer and field hockey. Wearing long socks over the shin pads can further protect the legs from turf burns.
Some studies suggest using sliding pads or sticky bandages to form a barrier between the skin and the turf.
When to see a doctor
If the turf burn becomes infected, it is essential to visit the doctor immediately. Without proper treatment, an infection can spread to other parts of the body, putting the person's overall health at risk.
There is also the risk that bacteria, such as staph, may spread to other players.
The signs and symptoms of an infection include:
A turf burn may take a few weeks to heal, but it will not usually leave a scar.