, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 399-413

Skin Manifestations of Athletes Competing in the Summer Olympics

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Abstract

Olympic athletes are vulnerable to traumatic, environmental and infectious skin manifestations. Although dermatological complaints are frequent among Olympians, there is a scarcity of literature that reviews sports-related dermatoses among Olympic athletes. A comprehensive review of PREMEDLINE and MEDLINE searches of all available literature through to January 2011 was conducted, focusing on sports-related dermatological presentations as well as the key words ‘Olympic athletes’ and ‘skin diseases’. Common skin conditions can be harmful and even prohibitive for competition.

Common aetiologies of dermatological conditions related to sports include: skin infections with dermatophytes such as tinea pedis and tinea corporis, bacteria such as pitted keratolysis, and folliculitis and viruses such as herpes gladiatorum. Frictional dermatoses occur commonly and include athlete’s nodules, jogger’s itch, frictional blisters, callosities and talon noir. Trauma can cause haematomas such as auricular haematomas. Due to long training hours in the sun, many endurance athletes experience high levels of UV radiation and a higher risk for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Pre-existing dermatoses can also be aggravated with practice and competition; in particular, atopic eczema and physical urticarias.

Infrequent dermatoses are susceptible to misdiagnosis, delay in treatment and needless biopsies. This review highlights the diagnosis and management of sports-related dermatoses by the following general categories of Olympic sport: endurance, resistance, team sport, and performing arts.