What is a turf burn

If you play football, soccer, or hockey, you may collide with another player or fall down, resulting in minor bruises or scratches on different parts of your body. If you play sports on artificial turf or lawn, you can get a painful abrasion known as a turf burn.

This injury can occur after sliding or skidding across artificial turf. These abrasions, which are due to friction, can tear into the top layer of skin. It may feel as if your skin has been scraped against sandpaper.

Turf burn can cover a large section of your skin or a small area, depending on how you fall. These abrasions can be extremely painful and may lead to complications. It’s important that you know the symptoms of turf burn, as well as how to treat it.

What does a turf burn look like?

What are the symptoms of turf burn?

It’s typical for you to develop a bruise after falling on your knee, leg, or arm. These falls may even scrape off a layer of your skin, bleed, and leave scratches. But not every scrape from a fall is turf burn.

Turf burn differs from the minor scraping or scratching you may experience from other injuries. The primary difference is that turf burn occurs after falling on artificial turf. Friction causes these types of skin abrasions. The heat generated from this friction removes a layer of skin.

In addition to being extremely painful, turf burn leaves a distinct raspberry-colored sore over the affected area. The area may also appear raw, and you may have small amounts of bleeding.

Minor scrapes and scratches from other types of injuries may also cause pain. But this pain may be moderate and subside within hours or days. Pain from turf burn can be intense and last for one or two weeks until the abrasion heals.

How are turf burns treated?

If you experience turf burn after a fall, you don’t necessarily need a doctor. You do, however, need to treat the abrasion to avoid the risk of infection. Here’s how to treat turf burn at home:

  • Gently apply pressure to the wound to help stop any bleeding.
  • Once bleeding stops, rinse the wound with plain water and pat the area dry with a cloth. Make sure to remove any dirt, grass, or debris from the sore. It may be difficult to clean a turf burn due to pain, but this process is necessary to avoid infections. Take your time and don’t apply too much pressure.
  • Apply an antiseptic ointment to the wound. If you don’t have an antiseptic, apply a thin layer of aloe vera over the abrasion. This is a natural antiseptic. Aloe vera can reduce inflammation and provide a cooling sensation.
  • You may want to cover the abrasion with a hydrogel dressing and a sterile gauze. This will protect the area from bacteria and help prevent an infection.
  • Continue to apply antiseptic ointment and a new bandage daily until the abrasion heals.

Monitor your abrasion over the next couple of days or weeks for signs of an infection. See your doctor if the wound doesn’t improve or if your pain level worsens.

What is the outlook for a turf burn

With proper home treatment, turf burn may completely heal in a couple of weeks. If possible, avoid playing sports until the sore heals, or else you could reinjure the area and prolong your recovery.

You can avoid infections by keeping the area protected and clean. As the sore heals, periodically check the area for early signs of an infection. These may include extreme redness, pain, or pus. Don’t ignore signs of an infection. If one develops, you may need a prescription antibacterial ointment or an oral antibiotic from your doctor.

Turf burn can lead to a staph infection. These infections are caused by the staphylococcus bacteria. This type of germ is found on the skin, but can enter the body through scrapes and cuts. A staph infection can be life threatening if it enters your bloodstream. Make sure you recognize signs of a staph infection and get to a doctor immediately if you suspect you may have a staph infection. Symptoms include:

  • worsening redness and pain after the area was starting to heal
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • joint and muscle pain

How to prevent turf burns

If you continue to play sports on artificial turf, there’s a chance you may keep getting turf burns. To prevent this from happening, wear protective clothing while playing soccer, football, hockey, or any other activity, if possible.

Options include clothing that covers your elbows, knees, legs, and hands. If you’re playing a team sport and your uniform doesn’t have long sleeves or pant legs, see if you can wear a fitted long-sleeve T-shirt underneath your team shirt. You can also wear socks that pull up to your knees, gloves on your hands, and padding on your knees and elbows. These measures can reduce the risk of friction burns caused from skidding across artificial turf.