Spartan Wound Care 101

By Spartan SGX Coach Mike Ryan, Spartan Race Sports Medicine Expert

Let’s talk about the dirty pink elephant in the room: As Spartan Racers, we’re always getting scraped and cut working out and racing in less-than-sterile settings. Those same wounds we proudly show off to our friends and family have a very real potential for health problems.

What’s a skin wound?

Your skin is the largest organ in the body. It does an amazing job keeping us safe. When functioning properly, the skin keeps the good stuff in and keeps the bad stuff out.

…then the “AROO’s” echo through the valley, the gun goes off and we start abusing our skin on the race obstacles, rocks, dirt, branches, mud and the loving barbed wire!

Anytime your skin is “open,” it can let germs into the body. If any part of your body normally covered by skin is not covered by skin, it’s a skin wound. It needs to be managed.

A wound or skin lesion can be a scrape, scratch, puncture, cut, laceration, tear, rash, bite, open blister, or burn.

Tips for Managing Skin Lesions

  1. Irrigate. Whatever is in your body (dirt, grass, rocks), get it out. A post-race hose is a good start. Rub in circular motion with a sterile gauze pad. KEY POINT: This hurts. Making it bleed is a good way to flush out the deep parts of a wound. You need to do this. Stop whining. You’re a Spartan.
  2. Clean the Wound. If you only have soap and water, use it. Soap and hot water is a very effective way to clean wounds. Ideally you want to use an antibacterial wound cleaner when available.
  3. Clean up the Neighborhood. Keep the skin around the wounds clean and covered to avoid re-introducing additional germs into the fresh wound.
  4. Apply Sterile Dressing. Band-Aids, non-stick gauze and dressings are great examples of sterile covers for open wounds.
  5. Keep Dry. Keep the lesion dry for the next 48+ hours. This will accelerate healing.

Warning Signs a Skin Injury is Getting Worse

Glowing Red – It’s not a good sign if the skin around a wound becomes a glowing, cherry red color.

Increased Heat – All wounds will be slightly warmer because of the increased metabolism required to heal a wound. But if the wound becomes fever hot, an infection may be brewing.

Discharge – Clear water-like fluid in a lesion is normal, but if the discharge becomes thick and pus-like, you should be concerned.

Swelling – Significant swelling under a wound is a bad sign.

Increasing Pain – If you experience a worsening “intense deep pain” in and under the lesion, something is wrong.

“The Dark Streak” – If you see a dark streak moving from the wound towards your heart, find the nearest Emergency Room.

Don’t Do’s

  1. Squeeze, Scrape or Poke Wounds – Hey Doctor Wannabe, stop messing with the flesh wound and allow the body to heal the injury.
  2. Add Germs to the New Lesion – Avoid getting the lesions dirty again before it properly heals.
  3. Experiment with Crazy Healing Practices – Trust modern medicine, it works. Avoid the crazy dude in the gym with the magic healing lotion. Your dog will want to lick your wounds too but don’t believe that old country myth either.

Must Do’s

  1. Keep Lesions Covered – Protect yourself and others by keeping all open flesh wounds covered with a sterile dressing.
  2. Practice Clean Hygiene – Infections don’t have to come from the mud. They can easily come from your dirty cell phone, hands, bed sheets, car seat, work phone, elevator buttons, coffee shop door handle, pull-up bar, toilet seat, gym bag, car steering wheel or dog leash. Did I kind of freak you out with that list? I hope so. Practice good hygiene and properly clean your surroundings.
  3. Allow Time to Heal – Cover your wounds and give them time to heal before you assault them again.

Elite Sports Medicine Tips by Mike Ryan

(1)Protect Your Contact Points – Know where you tend to get wounds and protect those areas. If your heels always blister, use a pumice stone to build more callus on your heels before the race. If the bucket carry always cuts your chest, Tarzan, wear a shirt. If your elbows get cut, start wearing elbow sleeves.

(2)Visit Post-Race Medical Tents – (ATTENTION SPARTAN MEDICAL STAFF: Your Band-Aid budget is about to triple!) After your race, stop by the medical tent so the professional medical staff can clean and properly cover your wounds before you sit on your dirty car seat for your ride home.

(3)Have a Watchful Eye – If you see a workout partner with an open wound, point it out to them and help them clean and dress their lesion. An open wound on workout equipment is a perfect way to spread germs and illnesses.

Learn more about Mike Ryan, PT, ATC, SGX.

Learn more about Spartan SGX training.