Preventing skin infections

By Julie Dutton 

ATC, LAT, Director of Athletic Training

 

Infections of the skin are common in high school and college athletics because of environmental conditions, close physical contact and trauma associated with sports.  Athletes need to be aware of the potential to contact bacteria, virus and fungi on a regular basis.  The National Athletic Trainers’ Association has published a Position Statement on Skin Diseases in athletics, which addresses hygiene and cleanliness.

Athletes must follow good overall hygiene practices.  Good personal hygiene decreases the colonization of bacteria and can be a first line of defense against transmission of infectious agents (Luke, A. Prevention of Infectious Disease in Athletes. Clin Sports Med. 2007.) . Good hygiene practices include:

l Showering after every practice with antimicrobial soap and water over the entire body. Athletes should also be discouraged from cosmetic body shaving (other than face and legs), as this has been shown to exponentially increase the risk of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

l Clothing worn for practice and games, including undergarments, outwear and uniforms, should be laundered daily.

l Equipment, including knee sleeves, braces and pads, should be disinfected as directed by the manufacturer on a daily basis.

l Athletes should not share towels, athletic gear, disposable razors or water bottles.

l Athletes must report all abrasions, cuts and skin lesions to their athletic trainer for proper cleansing, treatment and dressing.  If no ATC is available, athletes should see their doctor for any suspicious lesions.  Return to play guidelines following skin infection should be clearly stated and understood.

A clean environment must be maintained in locker rooms, athletic training rooms, weight rooms and all athletic facilities.

Parents and coaches must demand that athletes be responsible for good hygiene to minimize the risk of skin infections and outbreaks, and consult with medical professionals immediately if and when they occur to minimize worsening or spreading to others.

For more information, visit the National Athletic Trainers’ Association website at www.nata.org.

 By Julie Dutton

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