Being the mirror, the barometer of an individual’s health, skin is the clue to one’s healthy constitution. “Thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” is what the Olympics are all about but for many Summer Games athletes, there’s also the agony of skin irritations and conditions that can make the journey to the medal stand more difficult. The London 2012 summer games will see hundreds of athletes participating in 26 different sports from July 27 through August 2012.
Dermatological conditions are an increasing cause of medical problems for Olympic athletes and can be harmful and even prohibitive for competition and reviews did not find a wealth of medical literature in this area. This is unfortunate because although most athletes present with many common and easily identifiable dermatoses, rarer sports-related conditions also exist that may confound some physicians and create the potential for misdiagnosis and unnecessary procedures. Skin problems rank among athletes’ most common complaints, but there’s little information available regarding dermatoses among Olympic athletes.
Sports-related skin ailments by general categories of Olympic sport: endurance (marathon runners, triathletes, cyclists, long-distance swimmers), resistance (boxing, judo, weight lifting, wrestling), team sport (basketball, beach volleyball, tennis, soccer, water polo), and performing arts (diving, gymnastics, synchronized swimming) have been reviewed and it can be said that Summer Games athletes can be afflicted by a range of dermatoses, from the easy-to-treat rashes, calluses or blisters, to the more severe and complex conditions such as skin cancers and infectious skin diseases. Some infectious skin diseases can become epidemic among a team, creating significant disruption of team activities and performance. As healthy as exercise is, certain hazards go along with it, including the increased possibility of direct injury to your skin. You expose yourself to many contagious skin diseases in the locker room, on gym mats, and from direct contact with infected people. And, finally, from the sweating, friction and stress you may put yourself through, you create the ideal environment for new skin conditions to develop or for existing ones to get worse.
The extreme nature of athletes’ training, and their constant environmental exposures to heat, sweat, trauma, sun and other factors, can lead to health issues that affect their performance ability. From acne to sun poisoning, from herpes to “jogger’s nipples,” from “turf toe” to “bikini bottom,” the competitive athlete alike risks a line-up of skin problems. That’s true for all athletes. The upcoming summer Olympics is a great opportunity to highlight the skin issues that can afflict athletes everywhere. Remember that the best offense is a good defense.