Boxer’s wrist, cauliflower ear and mat burn are injuries commonly associated with combat sports like boxing, Muay Thai, Greco-Roman wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or BJJ.
These injuries are the result of repetitive stress or trauma on a particular body part for extended periods of time. This can result in pain or the deformation of said body part.
In this article, we will be looking at one of the most common injuries that are picked up in combat sports: mat burn.
What is Mat Burn?
If you have an interest in grappling-related combat sports, you most likely would know about mat burns. In fact, you might have even experienced it for yourself.
When your skin is rubbed on a surface such as the mat in your martial arts gym or dojo with significant force, this causes friction. In turn, it can be hot enough to even burn your skin, hence the term “mat burn.”
Typically, mat burns are first-degree burns which though unsightly, can be easily treated. In a sport like BJJ where grappling and rolling on mats are par-for-the-course, it’s no surprise that mat burns are common.
Most folks tend to pass off mat burns as small injuries that can be ignored, while some wear their burns as a badge of honor. However, mat burns can lead to much more serious problems when they are left untreated.
This is because the heat from friction burns damages your skin tissue and causes cuts and open wounds. These are then susceptible to infection and attack from MRSA bacteria (Staph bacteria).
Unfortunately, Staph bacteria are most commonly found in places where mat burns tend to occur i.e. the gym or dojo. The wet and hot conditions in most gyms mean that Staph bacteria tend to fester and reproduce quickly.
Besides leading to infected wounds i.e. oozing pus and blood, MRSA infections can also lead to a whole host of complications. For example, MRSA can lead to Athlete’s foot, jock itch, hepatitis, ringworm and even impetigo.
Along with this, given the conditions of most gyms and the added fact that MRSA spreads via skin-to-skin contact, a single infection can have a disastrous domino effect.
How to Prevent It
In order to prevent the spread of infection, there are several very simple steps that can be taken to combat MRSA and all of its related complications. Firstly, one of the easiest ways to deal with this problem is by practicing good hygiene.
Instead of leaving the gym in a deplorable condition, gym owners should regularly wipe down all surfaces and equipment with antibacterial and antifungal detergent. Doing so makes the environment extremely hostile for bacteria. It also significantly reduces the likelihood of infection while keeping the place looking sparkly clean.
Second of all, all communal areas like toilets and showers should be regularly hosed down and scrubbed with bleach to wipe out any traces of fungus or bacteria.
The often wet, hot and dark environments of many washrooms mean that they are a haven for any bacteria looking to reproduce. Hence, using bleach is one of the most effective means of keeping bacteria at bay.
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Thirdly, if you are a gym owner, make antibacterial and antifungal soap and shampoos a must-have for all of your facilities. Not only will your clients appreciate the gesture, but it will also go a long way in keeping MRSA and other bacteria away.
If you are a gym member and your gym does not provide antibacterial soaps and shampoos, consider bringing your own before heading out to the gym. This small investment can go a long way in protecting you from infections and harmful bacteria.
Along with this, always take a hot shower and scrub yourself down with antibacterial soap after a workout. Not only is this refreshing, it also ensures that any open cuts or injuries that you may have picked up during the workout is cleaned immediately. Additionally, doing so prevents bacteria from getting a foothold.
Treating Mat Burn
While preventing mat burns entirely is next to impossible, especially during the rough and tumble of BJJ, you can always take steps to effectively treat any mat burns that you may have picked up during a session.
Mat burns are essentially just like any other burn and can be treated as such. The only difference is the fact that mat burns have the added pain of being open cuts as well as burns.
Just like any other burn injury, the most effective way to treat mat burns is by leaving the injury open and allowing air to circulate. While you may be tempted to cover it up with a plaster of some kind, letting air circulate promotes healing and ensures that the wound will dry up at a faster rate.
This next step may make some folks cringe and may even seem like literally rubbing salt into an open wound. However, studies have shown that salt has antibacterial properties, as it removes all moisture from a particular area. In turn, it kills any bacteria.
Before you go pouring salt into your open wounds though, take a step back and instead, dip your injured hand into a bucket of warm salt water to disinfect the wound. If you’re a tough guy or gal, you can even opt for the alcoholic option, which is wiping the injury with an antiseptic wipe or even pouring hand sanitizer on it. While it may sting like crazy, it is a sure way of preventing your injury from becoming infected.
Finally and most importantly, take a good rest for a few days and allow your body to recover. Time off the mat allows your wound to close and recover. In a few days, you’ll be right as rain and ready to hit the mats with a vengeance.
Mat burns are a common problem that can have pretty severe complications. However, with proper precautionary measures and prudent injury management, mat burns can be easily handled with a minimum level of fuss.