- STEM I -

STEM at Mass Academy is taught by Dr. Crowthers. In the first part of the year students focus on their individual STEM project, for which we have two fairs in December and February. In the second part of the year students have a STEM II Assistive Technology project, in which students work together to create a device which can assist a certain client. In addition, the class involves a lot of scientific writing, which is used to expand our knowledge and teach us how to properly share and develop our projects in the field of science.

- Device to Protect From Skin Diseases Caused by Shin Guards -

My individual STEM project was inspired by my experience while playing soccer. Although I love playing soccer, my skin had developed an allergy to shin guards, which resulted in the development of dermatitis. After research online, I realized that shin guard dermatitis is not particular to only me, but rather affects many young soccer players. This inspired my idea, of creating a barrier to put in between the shin and the shin guard in order to prevent the development of dermatitis.

- Abstract -

Graphical Abstract

Shin guards are vital to the safety of soccer players, however, frequent use of the guards can lead to contact dermatitis. The goal of this project is to find an effective material to use as a barrier that reduces the development of shin guard dermatitis by absorbing sweat. The materials chosen for testing are common hypoallergenic materials that are used in clothing, and therefore do not cause much irritation with the skin and rarely cause an allergic reaction. Another advantage of these materials is that they are reusable and can be easily washed. In order to test absorbance factors, a certain amount of each material was soaked in a measured amount of water. Once removed, the absorbed amount of water was divided by the area of the material in order to find its absorbance factor. The absorbance testing showed 100% pre-shrunk cotton to be optimal, with an average absorbance factor of 0.0283 mL/cm2, with a standard deviation of 0.00192 over the course of three different tests. The p values obtained with a two-tailed unpaired t-test between the 100% preshrunk cotton and the nylon and spandex blend, 100% linen, 100% cotton, polyester and cotton blend, silk and cotton blend, and the 100% polyester are 0.0034, 0.0001, 0.0002, 0.0003, 0.0001, and 0.0006 respectively, showing a significant statistical difference for each comparison. This material can also be used in other parts of the body such as the hands or feet to prevent the occurrence of contact dermatitis.

Keywords: shin guard, dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis

Problem Statement

Soccer shin guards are vital to safety, however frequent use of the guards promotes the development of skin diseases such as dermatitis.

Engineering Objective

The goal of this project is to find a material for a barrier which reduces the occurrence of dermatitis by absorbing sweat, reducing exposure to contact allergens, and protecting the skin from irritating friction.

- Background -


Shin Guard Dermatitis is a form of contact dermatitis, and some cases are irritant contact dermatitis while others are allergic contact dermatitis. ACD is caused primarily due to an allergen, which (after coming into contact with the skin more than once) releases T-Cells from the immune system, which activate inflammation. ICD on the other hand is caused when the skin is disrupted due to physical contact (in this case it is friction). This releases cytokenes which cause inflammation.

- Methods -


In order to properly test for the absorbance factor of the 7 different hypoallergenic materials, I started by cutting out a rectangle of each fabric, and measuring the area of it. Then, I measured out 100mL of water using a graduated cylinder, and put it into a bowl. Once the entire rectangle of material showed discoloration, that meant that it had absorbed as much water that it could. Once I removed the fabric, I measured the amount of water remaining, and subtracted it from the initial 100mL to find the amount of water absorbed. Then I divided the amount of water absorbed by the initial area of the rectangle of fabric to find the absorbance factor in mL/cm2. I performed this test 3 times for each of the 7 fabrics in order to get accurate data.

- Figures -

Table 1

This table shows the measurements taken to find the area for the rectangles of each fabric. The 3 tests for each material were each performed with different rectangles of equal dimensions.

Table 2

This table shows how much water remained in the cup after removing the rectangular piece of fabric for each of the 21 tests. It also shows the calculated absorbance factor, in addition to the average absorbance factor for each material.

Graph 1

This bar graph visualizes the average absorbance factor for each material, shown in the chart above and to the right. It also contains error bars of the standard deviation of the 3 tests for each material.

- Analysis -

The absorbance factors can be seen in Table 2, for the 3 tests of each material. 100% Pre-shrunk cotton exhibited the highest average absorbance factor of 0.0283 mL/cm2, while the 51% silk and 49% cotton blend exhibited the lowest at 0.0043 mL/cm2. Once the means were calculated, the 100% Pre-shrunk cotton mean was then compared to each of the other materials by a two-sample unpaired t-test. The p values obtained with a two-tailed unpaired t-test between the 100% preshrunk cotton and the nylon and spandex blend, 100% linen, 100% cotton, polyester and cotton blend, silk and cotton blend, and the 100% polyester are 0.0034, 0.0001, 0.0002, 0.0003, 0.0001, and 0.0006 respectively.

- Discussion -

The goal of this project was to find a material that can protect soccer players’ shins from contact dermatitis, which is known to be formed due to the reactions between the skin and the guard. Each of the three tests for the 100% pre-shrunk cotton fabric had higher absorbance factors than any test of the other materials. In addition, the two-tailed unpaired t-test exhibited statistically significant values for each comparison of the means between the pre-shrunk cotton fabric and any of the other materials, when comparing the p-value to the standard scientific threshold of 0.05. The use of this test, and the results obtained, prove that the pre-shrunk cotton fabric is significantly better at absorbing sweat, and is, therefore, better than any of the other tested materials at protecting from shin guard contact dermatitis. In addition, because this material is hypoallergenic and also commonly used in clothing, it has been proven to not cause allergic reactions and also not produce much friction. This material can be used between the shin guard and the shin, in order to prevent direct contact between the allergens in the guard and the Stratum Corneum of the shin.

- References -

Bir, C. A., Cassatta, S. J., & Janda, D. H. (1995). An analysis and comparison of soccer shin guards. Clinical Journal of Spor t Medicine, 5(2), 95–99. https://doi.org/10.1097/00042752-199504000-00005 

D'souza, P., Soni, R., & Lokhande, A. J. (2019). Atypical presentation of sweat dermatitis with review of literature. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 10(6), 698. https://doi.org/10.4103/idoj.idoj_5_19 

Francisco, A. C., Nightingale, R. W., Guilak, F., Glisson, R. R., & Garrett, W. E. (2000). Comparison of Soccer Shin Guards in Preventing Tibia Fracture. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 28(2), 227–233. https://doi.org/10.1177/03635465000280021401

Freeman, S., & Rosen, R. H. (1990). Friction as a cause of irritant contact dermatitis. Dermatitis, 1(3), 165–170. https://doi.org/10.1097/01206501-199009000-00006 

Hill, H., & Jacob, S. E. (2016). Shin-Guard Dermatitis-Detection and Protection. Pediatric Dermatology, 33(3), 355–356. https://doi.org/10.1111/pde.12833

Hiragun, T., Ishii, K., Hiragun, M., Suzuki, H., Kan, T., Mihara, S., Yanase, Y., Bartels, J., Schröder, J.-M., & Hide, M. (2013). Fungal protein MGL_1304 in sweat is an allergen for atopic dermatitis patients. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 132(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2013.03.047 

Hodgens, A., & Sharman, T. (2021). Corticosteroids. In StatPearls Online. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.statpearls.com/ArticleLibrary/viewarticle/20045

Justiz Vaillant, A., & Vashisht, R. (2021). “Immediate Hypersensitivity Reactions.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30020687/

Kimber, I., Basketter, D. A., Gerberick, G. F., & Dearman, R. J. (2002). Allergic contact dermatitis. International Immunopharmacology, 2(2-3), 201–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1567-5769(01)00173-4

McCarroll, J.R., Meaney, C., & Sieber J. M. (1984). Profile of Youth Soccer Injuries, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 12:2, 113-117, DOI: 10.1080/00913847.1984.11701775

McMullen, E., & Gawkrodger, D. J. (2005). Physical friction is under-recognized as an irritant that can cause or contribute to contact dermatitis. British Journal of Dermatology, 154(1), 154–156. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2005.06957.x

Murota, H., Yamaga, K., Ono, E., & Katayama, I. (2018). Sweat in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis. Allergology International, 67(4), 455–459. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.alit.2018.06.003 

Murphy, P. B. (2021). Allergic contact dermatitis. In StatPearls Online. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532866/. 

Neale, H., Garza-Mayers, A. C., Tam, I., & Yu, J. D. (2020, November 17). Pediatric allergic contact dermatitis. part I: Clinical features and common contact allergens in children. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(20)32910-8/fulltext. 

Raison-Peyron, N., Bergendorff, O., Du-Thanh, A., Bourrain, J.-L., & Bruze, M. (2017). Two new cases of severe allergic contact dermatitis caused by acetophenone azine. Contact Dermatitis, 76(6), 380–381. https://doi.org/10.1111/cod.12777

Rubins, A., Romanova, A., Septe, M., Maddukuri, S., Schwartz, R. A., & Rubins, S. (2020). Contact dermatitis: etiologies of the allergic and irritant type. Acta Dermatovenerologica Alpina, Pannonica et Adriatica, 29(4), 181+. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A649236508/HRCA?u=mlin_c_worpoly&sid=bookmark-HRCA&xid=01629d31

Thomsen, S. F. (2014). Atopic dermatitis: Natural history, diagnosis, and treatment. ISRN Allergy, 2014, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/354250 

Weston, W. L., & Morelli, J. G. (2006). Dermatitis under Soccer Shin Guards: Allergy or Contact Irritant Reaction? Pediatric Dermatology, 23(1), 19–20. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1525-1470.2006.00162.x

- Poster -

Here is my poster for February Fair in which I am presenting my project. This is our second STEM fair of the year, in which we present our final project. This fair gives us a chance to advance to WRSEF (Worcester Science & Engineering Fair).

Feb Fair Poster