Sports injury of the week#2 Astro-burns The pain, the chicks, the glory abd the physics.

Astro burns

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We’ve all done it. You’re playing five a side with your mates, you go in for a sliding tackle, hit the ground, and get up dripping blood. In the days to come we’re talking serious scabbing and itching. Then, next week, next slide tackle, it all gets worse.

At times like this the serious sports film geek will come up with the inspirational quote Keanu Reeves makes to his team in that awesome movie ‘The Replacements’ – ‘pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory lasts for ever’. If you haven’t seen it you can catch it on YouTube here.

Put simply in scientific terms the problem with artificial pitches, unlike real turf where you can slide into and over it, is that they have a high co-efficient of friction . Include the fact that the synthetic fibres are short and unforgiving and as your skin rubs against them friction literally melts your skin. It’s painful, and something footballers and hockey players particularly suffer from.


One response to Astro-burns is to simply man-up and tough it out. This is probably the wrong response as you’ve actually quite seriously compromised your body’s route one protection – your skin. (Click here for clinic stuff on skin.) Always wash the injury out well after any bleeding has stopped. If you don’t want scarring you need to apply moist dressings for 5-7 days (changing every 2 days and to check it isn’t infected) until it heals over.

Your Grandma’s approach would have been to smear it in some antiseptic cream and ‘let the air get to it’. This approach will work equally well but it will scab over – so it’s the preferred ‘chicks dig scars’ route to healing.

If it scabs over and you’d rather it didn’t scar then try not to knock the scab off. You will not always get a scar every time you graze the skin. The lighter the abrasion the less likely you are going to be left with a permanent mark, don’t worry if the mark goes slightly lighter than the surrounding skin this just means that it’s healing correctly.

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Studies in America show that artificial pitches get hotter than grass at up to 50 Celsius. In summer pitches should be cooled before use because these temperatures would expose individuals to heat stroke and dehydration.

Another study showed that Professional American football teams had a higher number of injuries on artificial turf than normal grass, in particular sprains, pulls and even ACL problems. Athletes also complained more about muscle soreness using the artificial surface compared to the turf.

Astro may mean you can play in all weathers, but it does seem to raise the risk and talking from experience at DW and to older athletes, it will probably shorten any serious playing career.


Luckily as technology changes it’s getting better, although it’s still a very real problem on some older pitches due to the original quality and the wear and tear of the surface. In fact the latest artificial turf is less abrasive and takes the impact better, causing less injury and burns. These pitches are still built on sand, with synthetic blades of grass containing rubber crumble making it closer in texture to natural turf.

Look online and you’ll see some rather scary reports that these surfaces harbour bacteria. The view is that a lot of sportsmen spit (do girls spit too?) and that seems a valid point. However the reality of a health threat has never really been confirmed. Maintenance experts say that if the pitch is watered regularly there shouldn’t be any bacteria. Also with regular watering the turf will remain soft.

These new designs enable individuals to grip the surface a lot more than on a synthetic surface that has shorter grass. As the new surface is also much softer than its predecessors, goalkeepers and players do not encounter as many injuries such as turf burn.

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As always at DW we have prevention at the front of our minds. To avoid burns on artificial turf wear multiple layers and cover the parts of the body that will have contact with the ground. For example if you are a goalkeeper wear a long sleeved jersey to protect your arms, reducing the risk of abrasions.

Most Hockey goalies wear padding and base layers which protect elbows from scratches and scrapes, still enabling the skin to breath.

A word about our sponsor Kelo-Cote

If you’re happy with your scars no problem (and you’re probably a bloke!). If you’d rather not have a scar, wherever it is and whatever the reason, then Kelo-Cote gives you the chance to make it a whole lot less conspicuous. Actually there are not too many things you can do about scarring but Kelo-cote can really help sort it and we think it rather brilliantly clever super cool (despite the rather weird name) and on that basis Doctor Wellgood happily recommend it to you. It comes in gel form or as a spray - which is particularly good if you have a big astro scar. You can buy it online too.

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