By Brian M. Torpey, MD, FACS


Most competitive wrestlers, unlike their “Saturday Morning wrestling” counterparts (depending on your age: The Rock, Hulk Hogan, or George the Animal Steel), have injury levels that are similar to those seen in football and soccer.

Instead of being thrown from the ring, most competitive wrestlers actually sustain their injuries during the course of practice activities. It is also important to note the occurrence of wrestling associated injuries increases with the wrestler’s level of expertise and increase in age.

Perhaps the most common category of injury associated with wrestling includes skin lesions, specifically abrasions and infections of the skin. Most abrasions occur during the takedown when the wrestler being taken down is relatively out of control.

Specific infections that occur in wrestlers include ringworm, herpes, and impetigo. These skin diseases are passed from wrestler to wrestler during practice and/or competition. The appearance of skin rashes and weeping skin lesions should prompt all wrestlers to be evaluated by their certified athletic trainer or sports medicine physician, so that an appropriate evaluation and treatment may be administered.

“Cauliflower ear” or friction trauma to the outer ear is also an injury commonly associated with wrestling. The injury declares itself as a swollen outer ear that is tender and filled with blood. Properly fitting headgear is the best preventative treatment when cauliflower ear does occur. Treatment may include proper drainage of the blood collection as well as compression with cotton packing.

Nosebleeds, another common injury seen during wrestling competition, also respond well to cotton packing. Wrestlers with a nosebleed should forcefully blow the blood and the blood clot into a paper towel and then pinch their nose tightly until the cotton packing can be placed into the affected nostril. This technique should allow the wrestler to promptly and safely return to his wrestling match.