Skin Infections in Athletics
By: Dan Johnson, PT, Director of Rehab Services
Skin infections in the athletic population can be very problematic. This is particularly true in the sport of wrestling. Close quarters that promote skin-to-skin contact make athletes particularly vulnerable to skin diseases. Skin diseases fall into three basic categories fungal, viral, and bacterial. Treatment of these will vary depending on the infectious agent involved.
According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association in their Fact Sheet entitled “Skin Diseases in Athletics”:
- Institutions must provide adequate financial and human resources to implement a comprehensive infectious disease control policy.
- Maintenance of clean facilities is paramount in limiting the spread of infectious diseases.
- Adequate hand hygiene including frequent hand washing and showering after every sport activity may be one of the biggest factors in reducing the spread of infectious disease.
- Athletes and coaches must be educated about, and encouraged to follow good overall hygiene practices.
- Athletes must be discouraged from sharing towels, athletic gear, water bottles, disposable razors and hair clippers.
- All clothing and equipment should be laundered and/or disinfected on a daily basis.
- Athletes should be encouraged to complete daily skin surveillance and report any suspicious lesions for treatment.
According to the NYS Health Department:
- Environmental surfaces in the athletic setting should be cleaned and disinfected.
- Establish a regular cleaning schedule for shared environmental surfaces such as wrestling mats or strength-training equipment.
- Repair or discard equipment with damaged surfaces that cannot be adequately cleaned (e.g., equipment with exposed foam)
- Cover treatment tables, discard or launder coverings after each use.
- If soiled linens and clothing are washed on school premises, wash with regular laundry detergent in hot water (minimum 160 degrees F). If the water is not 160 degrees or higher, add one cup of bleach to the wash. Dry in hot dryer. Consider wearing gloves when handling dirty laundry.
Further information is available at www.NATA.org or www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/athletic-skin-infections/hand-washing.