- A blister is a bubble on the skin, usually caused by friction, injury, or infection
- Calluses are hardened layers of skin that body develops in response to friction or pressure
Baseball and softball players of all ages and skill levels are susceptible to developing blisters and calluses.
Usually caused by repetitive motions like batting and pitching, these skin conditions can cause discomfort and negatively affect performance on the field as players must adjust their fine-tuned mechanics to minimize pain.
Blisters and calluses can occur on any part of the body subjected to repetitive friction or pressure, but they are most common on the hands and feet.
Both conditions can be painful, causing difficulties running, swinging, or throwing. If these skin conditions are bad enough, they may sideline a player for several weeks.
This guide will cover the basics of blisters and calluses for baseball and softball players, including their likelihood of occurring, location, causes, how to prevent them, and how to manage them.
Differences Between Blisters and Calluses
Both conditions are indications that your body is trying to build a defense where the skin tries to protect itself by producing extra layers.
A blister is a small pocket of bubble on the skin containing serum, a clear liquid designed to heal the raw skin caused by rapid friction or sudden pressure burns.
In baseball and softball, a pressure burn happens when a player lands on their unprotected leg or arm on an artificial turf.
Exposed skins from popped blisters can be painful and limit a player’s ability to grip a bat or glove.
Similarly, calluses also form in response to repeated pressure or friction. Unlike blisters, however, the yellowish, thick areas of skin form after the gradual increase in pressure or friction.
Properly maintained calluses are beneficial in protecting a player’s skin.
Like blisters, calluses can cause discomfort if they become too thick and rip off, exposing unprotected skin.
When do blisters and calluses form
Blisters are a common issue for baseball players, especially those who cram in a lot of batting practice or games in a short period.
Depending on how they hold the bat, each player may get blisters in different spots on their hands [LINK tbd – HOW TO NOT HOLD THE BAT].
Also, some players have naturally tough hands (some hands feel like sandpapers), so they don’t get blisters often, while others have soft hands and are more prone to getting them.
For professional baseball players, blisters are most common during the spring when they play games all day long for many weeks in a row, so getting blisters is almost unavoidable for these professional players.
For youth baseball and softball players, blisters are common among travel team players during the summer when these competitive teams usually play 50+ games in league and weekend tournaments lasting about six weeks.
If a player hasn’t hit or pitched in a while, they need to increase the number of swings and throws gradually to allow their hands and fingertips to toughen up again.
Getting some pitching and batting reps during the off-season can also help prevent blisters.
As a bonus, I will share some tricks to help you speed the toughening up your skins, so please keep reading!
Getting blisters instead of calluses
Individual hand variations and the extent of blister development can vary, with genetics playing a significant role.
Individuals who have grown up on a farm or engaged in strenuous physical activities, such as weightlifting, are likely to possess rough, calloused hands and avoid blister formation.
It is common to observe seasoned athletes with tough hands who do not use batting gloves and remain blister-free despite repeated contact with the ball.
However, inexperienced young players with tender hands are more prone to skin tears and can develop calluses as a protective mechanism against blistering through repeated swinging and pitching motions.
Young baseball players dislike blisters, so it is critical to take preventive measures to minimize blister formation and ensure comfortable participation.
Please do not forget that blisters and calluses can also form on feet, so players should also practice proper foot care.
Common blister and callus locations
The palm is a flat, fleshy part on the anterior (front) side of the hand, extending from the wrist to the base of the fingers.
Below is a list of parts on a palm:
- A: Hypothenar Eminence
- B: Interdigital Pads II (index), III (middle), and IV (ring)
- C: Thenar Eminence
- D: Thenar web space
- E: Proximal phalanx
- F: Middle phalanx
- G: Distal web space
These anatomical structures work together to allow for the delicate and precise movements of the hand and fingers, making the palm a crucial area in hand function.
Common areas for developing blisters among baseball players include Interdigital Pads II, III, and IV, Thenar Eminence, Thenar web space, and middle distal phalanx regions.
Baseball and softball players of all ages often expose these areas to friction and pressure during the swing of a bat and pitching.
In case of a blister formation, it needs to be cleaned and protected to prevent infection and promote healing.
When playing competitive baseball, you may have blisters and have a game that you cannot afford to sit out.
In those situations, you want to first protect the affected area.
If the blister is small, simply apply a fabric bandaid. If the blister is large, apply a non-adhesive gauze followed by athletic tape to secure dressing.
If you are playing a specific position, consider the following treatment methods:
- Pitchers – apply a small amount of liquid skin or crazy glue to seal the affected fingertip; let it harden before playing a game.
- Batters – apply moleskin/second skin/tuff skin to the affected area and wear batting gloves; you may want to consider wearing two gloves on the affected hand for added protection.
If at all possible, please do not pop the blister.
Inside a baseball glove or batting glove is FAR FROM CLEAN, so popping a blister may expose raw skin to bacteria and other germs and increase the likelihood of infection.
It’s best to leave the blister intact and let the body heal the wound on its timetable.
Once home, you can follow these steps to treat your blisters:
- Clean the skin thoroughly using soap and water; if the blister has been popped, try not to rip off the blister bubble skin.
- Apply an antiseptic solution (usually hydrogen peroxide or iodine) to kill germs
- If the blister is large, you may also soak the affected area in warm water to loosen and clean the debris
- Apply a protective cream or ointment like Neosporin to promote healing. Make sure to follow the directions since using it more than the recommended may PREVENT proper healing of the affected area
- Apply a sterile, no-stick gauze pad (you can cut the pad to size; I like to dedicate a first-aid scissors for this purpose) and secure it with athletic tape.
According to a study by the National Institute of Health (NIH), there is no conclusive evidence that salt water (saline solution) is superior to regular tap water when cleaning wounds. You can read the study here.
Taking care of Calluses
Calluses are an essential part of a baseball or softball player’s hand, providing the necessary protection and durability for playing the sport.
But too much callus can lead to painful consequences if not properly maintained.
Excessive calluses can rip and cause blisters, which is why calluses need to be maintained and kept at a healthy level.
Some older ball players may think using sharp objects like shavers or razors to shape their calluses is the solution. But this method can cause lacerations and increase the risk of infection and is not recommended by healthcare providers.
So, what is the best way to maintain healthy calluses? The answer is using a pumice stone.
A pumice stone allows you to gradually grind down the calluses to a suitable height without the risk of cutting your skin.
Before using a pumice stone, soak your hands in warm water for about 5 minutes. This soaking step will help soften the skin and make it easier to grind down the calluses.
The ideal level of callus depends on the thickness of your skin and the height of the callus itself, but most players prefer to keep it at a slight hump.
Preventing Calluses (on your feet)
As previously stated, a thin layer of calluses on the hands and fingertips is preferable, but the same rule does not apply to the feet.
Calluses and corns (smaller calluses) can cause pain while running, and in baseball and softball, players often have to make sudden sprints. Therefore, it is best to minimize or eliminate them.
Here are few preventative actions a player can take:
- Shoes – Wear properly fitted baseball or softball cleats; make sure to include the width of your feet; it takes about 2 weeks to fully break-in a new pairs of cleats [LINK – tbd]
- Sole cushions – add a layer of extra padding does wonders to reduce pressure points on your feet
- Socks – wear cotton socks, which are soft and absorbent, to keep the feet dry and prevent calluses from forming due to moisture
- Sweats – Apply antiperspirant materials like Carpe Foot Lotion or 2Toms Blister Shield Foot powder work great in control sweat
Calluses and corns on the feet can be a significant source of pain for baseball and softball players.
Incorporating these steps into a routine will minimize or eliminate calluses and keep their feet pain-free, thus allowing players to enjoy the game without discomfort.
Blisters are a common problem for baseball players, especially those with soft hands and those who have a break in their hitting.
In hitting, players and their parents should remember to gradually increase the number of swings and pitches after inactivity to minimize the risk of developing blisters.
Consistent batting practice during the off-season can significantly help prevent blisters.
There are several methods players can use to prevent blisters, including shaving down their calluses, wearing two pairs of batting gloves, wrapping their hands with tape, or installing a high-quality bat grip.
However, wearing two pairs of batting gloves on the bottom hand is often seen when a player is trying to heal from blisters, not to prevent them.
In pitching, many pitchers develop blisters on the inner part of their middle finger (which is the last point of contact before releasing the ball) and thumb.
Throwing lightly and gradually increasing the number and distance of throws during the off-season will allow players can develop a layer of calluses on their fingertips.
Nolan Ryan, one of the greatest pitchers in MLB, is known to recommend pickle juice to toughen up his fingertips.
Other players have suggested using toothpaste, antiperspirant, or their urine to toughen up the fingertips!
As cool as these remedies sound, please note that these methods are not scientifically proven so YMMV.
On a side note, children should have adequate time to break in their fielding gloves and cleats before using them in a game.
Breaking in new equipment by using them off-season can help reduce the risk of blisters by reducing friction on the skin.
Blisters and calluses are frequent occurrences among baseball and softball players as athletes.
Taking the necessary steps to prevent and manage them can positively impact a player’s performance and comfort on the field.
By implementing proper prevention techniques and seeking medical advice when needed, players can reduce the risk of developing blisters and continue playing the sport they love.
If you or your child is experiencing pain or discomfort from blisters or calluses, please do not ignore it and consult a healthcare provider for further advice and treatment options.
- Is it better to pop a blister or leave it?
- You should not pop a blister unless directed by a medical professional. The fluid-filled blister serves as a protective layer for the skin underneath, keeping it clean and reducing the risk of infection for quicker healing.
- What are causes of blisters?
- Burns or scalds
- Rubbing (friction), such as from shoes rubbing against the skin
- A contagious skin infection (impetigo)
- Allergic reactions, such as poison ivy
- Viral infections, such as chickenpox and herpes zoster
- What is the liquid in a blister?
- The fluid inside a blister is referred to as serum and is a result of the neighboring tissues reacting to injured skin. If the blister is left unopened, the serum provides a natural defense for the skin underneath. Blisters that are small in size are referred to as vesicles. (Source: Harvest.edu)
- What are the symptoms of a blister?
- Blisters that occur due to injury or friction will manifest as a bubble filled with clear or bloody liquid in a specific area. On the other hand, blisters that result from a more widespread condition may appear in one area or all over the body, causing pain or itchiness. In certain cases, the blister may be a symptom of a whole-body condition such as an infection, which can cause symptoms such as fever, pain, and fatigue. It is important to note that the symptoms of a blister can resemble those of other skin conditions. For an accurate diagnosis, it is always best to consult a healthcare provider.
- How do you treat blisters in baseball?
- Blisters in baseball can be treated by covering it with an adhesive bandage or moleskin; draining it; take over the counter pain relievers as prescribed by a medical professional.
- Why do I get blisters when batting?
- Blisters is caused by repeated friction during bat swings; hitting lots of baseballs or softballs in a short amount of time increases the likelihood of forming blisters
- Should you put Vaseline on a callus?
- Some players dab some olive oil, shay butter and other oily substances to keep the callus from becoming to thick; you will need to experiment on your own
- Should batting gloves be tight or loose?
- Batting gloves should be not loose; it’s a good fit if you can close your fist with some resistance
- Should athletes remove calluses?
- No, a thin layer of calluses in strategic locations is highly beneficial to a competitive athlete
- Do calluses increase grip?
- No, calluses is a thick dead skin that minimizes the risk of blisters from forming
- Do calluses ever go away?
- Yes, calluses will eventually go away after a period of inactivity