The Skin Guide
Just by the nature of the sport, wrestlers come into contact with a multitude of airborne and skin born infections, some more serious than others. A wrestling room is usually a hot moist environment, the perfect breeding ground for any type of infectious element. Add to that the unavoidable skin to skin contact and you have the recipe for the ultimate bacteria cocktail.
As with any sport, we try to keep our wrestlers on the mat and not on the sideline. Injuries happen, that’s just the nature of the beast, but to lose a wrestler or even a whole team to something that could have been prevented with a modicum of common sense is just plain ludicrous.
The Skin Guide is the wrestling resource to education and prevention of infection. This segment will focus on common wrestling skin infections; their characteristics and means of prevention. It will have a continuous stream of related articles from experts on the subject, and serve as a ‘do’s and don’t’s’ list of the latest technology and products to keep our kids on the mats. After all of the grueling hours of practice, the last thing we want is to see them out of the action because of carelessness.
The Skin Guide is an educational forum designed to arm coaches, parents and wrestlers with the information necessary to minimize if not completely prevent sidelining grapplers due to skin infections. Skin Infection; Detection And Correction will serve as a guide to what infections wrestlers are normally subjected to, how they are transmitted, medical procedures and prevention techniques.
Skin infections can be bacterial, viral or fungal in origin; and although they are as different alligators and airplanes, methods of prevention are the same. I won’t discuss the differences other than to say that they emanate from a bacteria, fungus or virus. The four prevalent infections common to wrestlers are impetigo, MRSA, herpes simplex and ringworm.
Perhaps the most common infection to wrestlers is the ringworm fungus. Most
people are not aware that athletes foot, jock itch and ringworm are all the same.
This fungal infection appears as a raised circle or ring, red or brown around the edges with scaly peeling skin in the middle and thrives in a warm moist area.
The sources of of infection are unclean locker rooms, clothing, showers, wrestling mats or skin to skin contact with infected individuals. It is not always visible as sometimes it may be in the hair or under the fingernails. Ringworm is highly contagious and infected individuals need to have a physician’s form to return to wrestling. It can be cured with topical or oral medication but can be contagious for several days after symptoms disappear.
As with any skin infection, prevention is preferable to treatment. However, in the case of infection, it’s imperative that trainers and coaches be notified immediately of any suspicious rashes etc. so they may make prudent judgments and quarantine the infected wrestlers.
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Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is a bacterial infection usually but not necessarily contracted through an open sore or cut in the skin. MRSA can be very serious if it gets in the blood stream leading to other health issues if not treated
immediately. MRSA is highly contagious and also requires quarantining and a physician’s release form before a wrestler is able to practice or compete. The cause of infection is either skin to skin contact with an infected person or skin to surface contact where the bacteria is present. What makes MRSA a major cause for concern is it’s ability to resist most antibiotics. MRSA symptoms are mainly small sores or boils most commonly on the back of the neck, underarms, groin or beard on men.
Tenderness, redness and swelling around the infected area, pus and drainage are common. It can spread very quickly and produce flu like symptoms ie fevers, sweats or chills. Physicians test skin, blood or urine samples to get an accurate diagnosis.
More on MRSA
Impetigo is a bacterial infection transmitted by skin to skin or skin to surface contact, usually but not necessarily through an open sore or cut. Staph and strep are the culprits and it appears as small clusters of red bumps that break open into yellowish scabs. It is also highly contagious and as with MRSA could lead to other serious health problems if not treated. Impetigo may cause flu like symptoms, headache, body ache, fever, fatigue and swollen glands.
Physicians can usually detect impetigo but sometimes skin samples for lab analysis are necessary. It can be treated with topical cremes and antibiotics and is not considered contagious 1-2 days after symptoms disappear. Consistent with other skin infections. a physician’s release is required before a wrestler can go back to practice or competition.
More on impetigo.
Herpes simplex T1, wrestling or mat herpes is not to be misconstrued with genital herpes simplex T2. The former is in the same category with cold sores and fever blisters and is a highly contagious viral infection. There are several kinds but the most common is called Herpes Gladiatorum and is spread by contact with an infected area or fluids; again through skin to skin or skin to surface. Sores need not be present for the infection to spread. It appears as a rash with small clusters of red bumps and irritated skin. Fluid filled blisters appear after a few days; they flatten out and become yellowish brown scabs. Symptoms may not be visible for several days, if at all. Physicians need blood samples to accurately detect it. It cannot be cured only treated and will go into remission but can reoccur due to stress or fatigue.
BE SMART; COMMON SENSE PREVENTION
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. The above mentioned skin infections can be almost completely prevented by proper hygiene and common sense preventative measures. The following are recommendations endorsed by almost every governing body in both sports and medicine.
- Keep body parts covered during practice. The use of sweat pants and long sleeve shirts will prevent any direct contact with infected areas.
- Use a skin protectant and apply on face, legs, arms, neck, back, and any area that is exposed via skin to skin or surface to skin contact.
- Shower immediately after practice using a liquid antibacterial soap.
- Never reuse unwashed towels and never share towels.
- Wear flip flops in locker rooms and showers. Spray with disinfectant after use.
- Wash all clothing after every practice or competition.
- Put all clothing in a plastic bag after use. Infected clothing could spread to inside gym bag. Never leave dirty clothing in gym bag.
- Keep all cuts and scrapes covered with bandages.
- Spray gym bag with disinfectant spray.
- Clean all wrestling mats with alcohol based disinfectant prior to use.
- Clean shoe bottoms on special disinfectant shoe mats.
- Immediately report all rashes or skin disorders to trainers, coaches and/or parents so the proper procedures may be instituted.
- Consult a physician for diagnosis and treatment. Obtain the proper release form when the condition clears.
LINKS TO RELATED ARTICLES