Psoriasis & BJJ: My Battle With Being Accepted On The Mat

“Is that what I think it is?”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d actually be able to afford one of those limited-edition Shoyoroll gis.

I have psoriasis, which is a genetic skin condition that symptomatically varies widely. Most people live with it completely unnoticed to others and maybe even to themselves. Others struggle heavily with daily creams, pills, and injections just to keep the worst of the symptoms at bay.

I didn’t even know that I had psoriasis until after I joined the army. Since then, it’s been a constant struggle of daily creams, face washes, minimizing sun exposure, and dealing with the fact that allergy season is a losing battle against my symptoms. It shows on my face, head, chest, back, and left leg. Each of the spots is small but impossible to hide, especially on the jiu-jitsu mats.


With my previous job, I use to travel weekly all over the United States. Wherever I went, so did my gi. I built an extreme love for the “have gi, will travel” lifestyle, especially with how welcoming everyone is within the BJJ community.  Within one year, I managed to visit over 50 schools throughout the United States. I found that it doesn’t matter your lineage, size, age, or gender — you’ll always be welcome at any jiu-jitsu school. There is only one thing that will stop you from being welcomed before you even get started: ringworm.

I don’t really need to explain to everyone what ringworm is and what it looks like. It’s the bane of all jiu-jitsu schools, and rightfully so. It’s even worse for those that train with psoriasis since the medicine you take to suppress psoriasis symptoms makes you more susceptible to ringworm.

Unfortunately, ringworm can look a lot like psoriasis. Several times, I’ve had instructors keep me from training at their schools because my psoriasis set off the “ringworm alarm” inside their heads. I always try to explain that it’s psoriasis, but I never argue their decisions. I’ve always walked away suppressing my shame while knowing they’re clearly looking out for their school and its active members. Unfortunately, the feeling of exile from the sport I hold dearest to my heart still lingers.

Do I expect BJJ instructors to become expert dermatologists and be able to identify the differences between psoriasis and ringworm? Not at all.  But I do propose that a solution to this problem needs to be created. After hopping around BJJ forums, I realize that I’m far from the only person that has this problem.

Here are a few things that I think can help BJJ Practitioners with psoriasis and BJJ Schools alike:

1. BJJ practitioners with psoriasis need to make instructors and teammates aware before accusations are made. It’s an easier battle to fight if you make everyone aware right off the bat.  It’s not always easy to stand up and say, “Hi, I’m Patrick Skinner. I have Psoriasis.”  95% of the time, I’ve had positive reactions from this and have even received praise for it.  There has been a couple of times where I felt like I had to give a lecture on what psoriasis was and still received looks as if I was a leper.

2. Some BJJ practitioners with psoriasis can wear rash guards and spats under their gis. As expensive those damn spats can be, they do help prevent my psoriasis from getting roughed up under gi pants which only makes it looked all red and flared up after rolling. This isn’t a solution for all athletes with psoriasis, but for those who are only symptomatic on their arms and legs, it can help.

3. BJJ schools should have a document to sign if a student is identified to have something that may resemble ringworm to protect the school. If an instructor pulled me to the side and said, “I really don’t know what that is. So, to protect my students, would you mind signing a document that says you’ve clearly stated that what you have is not contagious to my team?” I would probably sign that document.  The only problem with that is if there is a sudden outbreak of ringworm at the school after you signed that document, you could be blamed.

Psoriasis is much more common among the BJJ community that anyone would think. Between two and three percent of today’s population has psoriasis, which means if you’ve rolled with at least 50 people, at least one or two of them had psoriasis.

It’s already hard enough for those that have psoriasis to battle with it every day. I’ve been kicked off the mats several times for a genetic disease that I have very little control over. I get that every instructor wants to keep the team safe, and I’ll never fault them for it. Just take a little time to learn a bit about this disease and how it differs from other actual contagious diseases.


  1. Excellent read, I’m very impressed with your strength you are not only battling the pain but others judgement as well.

  2. I carry a dr.s note in my bag. Unfortunately my psoriasis is so out of control now, im unable to train. My knees and elbows bleed so much (even through spats) my partners gis get as bloody as mine. New dr coming soon and new meds to come with her. Fingers crossed
    Take care.


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