While the landscape of high school sports is often dominated by football, baseball and soccer, indoor sports like wrestling, basketball and cheerleading are also very popular.  No matter which sport you choose to play this winter, skin issues caused or exacerbated by those activates can lead to discomfort or even an inability to participate.  Due to the likelihood of athlete-to-athlete contact, skin issues can easily spread and wreak havoc on an entire team.

The key to keeping your winter athlete's skin safe is being educated on common conditions and seeking appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible. Here are four skin issues to look out for this winter:

Athlete's foot

This is a very common ailment we see during the winter. It affects all types of athletes, but especially basketball players. It is easily spread from one athlete to another by walking barefoot on public floors or sharing contaminated objects.  Athlete's foot, aka "foot funk" usually presents as a red, itchy, burning rash on the soles of the feet and in between the toes. The itch and pain can be very intense.


First and foremost, ringworm is not a worm at all! Rather it is a fungal infection, which presents as a rash that appears as red circular lesions on the skin and is often itchy. It is common among wrestlers because thrives in warm moist environments, exactly like the ones found in wrestling rooms throughout the area. However, can affect anyone in contact sports. The good news is that ringworm is easily treatable with either a topical or oral prescription medication. Over the counter antifungal medications are prescribed if the symptoms are mild.  Antifungal sprays can provide immediate relief to symptoms while a prescription oral medication may be needed to eradicate the fungus completely.

Herpes virus

Other serious skin conditions that appear during the winter sports season are herpes outbreaks, which tend to render an athlete ineligible. Cold sores are common and easily treatable but acute care must be administered to prevent their spread.

Allergic reactions

These issues occur most often due to sports equipment. Young athletes find out very quickly that they are allergic to latex or certain plastics if they didn't already know. Uniforms, Martial Arts pads, and equipment like jock straps can all cause allergic reactions to unsuspecting athletes. Most of these reactions are mild and can be treated by a physician. If the allergy is severe, it is best to go to an emergency room as soon as possible.

Take note: Following the summer season, skin pigment returns to baseline making winter the perfect time to schedule a full-body skin exam.   Be sure to check for any new and unusual skin anomalies. If you or a loved one has a skin mole, be sure to check them.  Schedule an appointment with your dermatologist at the first sign of any changes. Early detection of skin cancer could save your life!

Christine Stanko, MD, FAAD, is the founder of Bryn Mawr Dermatology and has been practicing dermatology in Bryn Mawr, PA since 2003. Dr. Stanko specializes in laser therapy, cosmetic techniques and skin cancer surgery.