Abrasions, Cuts and Lacerations

The skin is the biggest and most frequently damaged human organ. It protects the internal organs of the body and is in constant contact with the external world. Athletes are prone to damaging their skin at any point due to the demands of their activities. In general, cuts and abrasions are relatively minor injuries to the skin whereas lacerations can be major wounds with the potential to injure other aspects of the body.

Skin Components

There are three main layers to the skin: the sub cutis at the bottom, the dermis in the middle, and the epidermis on top. The severity of skin injuries is broadly determined by how far the damage sinks into these layers, as the lower the depth of an injury, the closer it gets to piercing veins or damaging internal organs in some cases.


An abrasion generally damages only the epidermis of the skin and should have the appearance of a nasty scratch rather than a wound. It may redden the affected skin and create a rough texture that can be painful when touched. Soreness is often felt but this should be consistent with a minor injury. Abrasions in sport are usually caused due to the friction arising when a sportsperson comes into contact with a surface at high speed. The roughness of the surface may contribute to the extent of the damage. Such scrapes can occur in many contact sports and track events. Another cause is a scratch from an object or fellow athlete.

Only a few days are necessary for abrasion healing. Any dirt or similar substances should be carefully washed from the abrasion. Antibiotics can be used to ward off infection.


A cut can vary in depth and seriousness but on most occasions still only penetrates the epidermis. As opposed to abrasions, cuts draw blood into the wound due to a problem caused to the circulatory system beneath the opening. Cuts may be caused by an accidental blow from a sharp-edged projectile (e.g. sticks or bats) or parts of specialised sports clothing such as football boot studs. Sustaining a cut should not impede sports participation except for the initial bandaging process. If the cut bleeds profusely and will not stop, to the extent that a bandage or plaster cannot contain it, then consult a medical professional as stitches may be necessary.

Healing of cuts depends on severity, but from 1 to 2 weeks is a good indicator. Make sure that the area remains clean and that nothing remains lodged in there. Cuts often recover faster if exposed to the air, but bandaging guards against infection.


Lacerations are more severe injuries that can rip through the layers of skin and damage the tissues and possibly muscles below the wound. They are associated with significant accidents in sports and elsewhere. Symptoms include major blood leakage, crooked and sharp edges to the wound, and a notable opening. Seeing a professional is of paramount importance for suturing the laceration. The risk of infection is high due to the depth of the wound. Lacerations are generally bandaged, and the athlete can be out of training until the sutures are removed.

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