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A Golfer’s Rash: Skin Condition Commonly Thought an Allergic Reaction May Be Heat Related
Alan L. Hammond, GolfersMD Health News
Aug 09, 2010

Golfers have long battled skin irritations around the lower legs and ankles. Those irritations, or rashes, have commonly been attributed poison ivy, poison oak or some other evil flora. In a 2005 study, researchers with the Department of Dermatology at St. Vincent Hospital in Melborne, Australia found that, although poorly documented, the condition may be heat related rather than an allergic reaction.

The catalyst for the study was the number of patients who presented themselves for treatment for an erythematous, purpuric rash occurring on the legs following a round of golf, and also after prolonged walks or hikes. As stated, many patients believed that it was an allergic reaction to grasses or insecticides. It was discovered that some patients had undergone extensive allergy testing to discover the cause of their rash.

Hospital researchers collected reports of 17 such cases from dermatologists in the state of Victoria, Australia. Those patients were interviewed by telephone and asked to submit photographs of the rash if possible. Of these, the eruption developed in 15 after playing 18 holes of golf and in three following prolonged hikes. The rash would usually develop over the summer months and under hot conditions.

Additionally, most patients were over 50 years of age when the tendency to develop the irritation began. Biopsies of the rash in the active phase showed leukocytoclastic vasculitis, or small vessel vasculitis. Investigations for the underlying causes for the vasculitis were negative or unremarkable, but researchers believe it to be a common but poorly documented condition. The clinical presentation and histology supported the conclusion that it represents a leukocytoclastic vasculitis induced by prolonged exercise under hot conditions. The findings of the research also indicated it occurs in healthy people.

Since the majority of the 17 patients tested were golfers, the research team felt the condition should be termed “golfer's vasculitis” Since golf appeared to be the most common precipitating event, it was found to be a natural name for the condition. Further, they felt that such a term would enable the condition to become more widely recognized.

Since research into the condition is limited, the results, though plausible and probable, were not totally conclusive. The study was a necessary first step in identifying the cause of the common irritation and the solution for it’s elimination. A secondary benefit of the study is that it may prevent unnecessary testing and medical treatment.

Source: Australasian Journal of Dermatology, vol. 46(1), February 2005.

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User Comments

Betty Anewalt
I am 76 years old and play golf at least 3 times a week and like to walk. Several years I started to get a redness above my sock line after a round--it would go away next day. This year the rash covers pretty much of my leg from the knee down.