MRSA, Other Skin Infections Plague Athletes

We have previously written about the issue of <"">MRSA and athletes. Now, says Bloomberg Businessweek, one dermatologist is warning that team players could be sharing some contagious skin infections, including the dangerous MRSA.

“Outbreaks of ringworm, herpes, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have occurred at the high school, collegiate, and professional level throughout the world,” said dermatologist Dr. Brian B. Adams, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine, quoted Businessweek. “These skin conditions are highly contagious and can spread through sports teams quite quickly, especially if they are not immediately diagnosed and contained. That is why athletes need to be aware of these risks and how to spot the warning signs of a skin infection,” he added.

The high incidence of physical contact and skin trauma make a good environment in which bacteria can take off. When this is coupled with shared facilities and equipment and the potential presence of poor hygiene, germs can take off, according to Dr. Adams, who explained that wrestlers see a greater incidence of impetigo, a blistery, itchy, “honey-colored, crusty red rash, while MRSA seems to thrive in football, wrote Businessweek.

We’ve long reported on the escalating issues with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as MRSA, a type of staph that causes infections resistant to most antibiotics and has sickened tens of thousands of Americans annually in recent years. We have also written that MRSA has infected players from four NFL teams, some NYC firefighters, and seems to strike people in close physical contact.

MRSA is a fully preventable disease and very treatable in early stages with early and proper diagnosis and general-purpose antibiotics, a bandage, and a clean environment. MRSA is resistant to all but the one antibiotic of last resort, which is being used more and more, and with decreasing success. Without treatment or with incorrect diagnosis and treatment, MRSA spreads rapidly, leading to respiratory failure and surgeries, attacking vital organs like the lungs and heart. Survivors are not always returned to their pre-MRSA condition, losing limbs, hearing, and full use of damaged organs.

In 2008, we wrote that dermatologists were reporting MRSA infections had become increasingly common among athletes, including high school and college athletes, citing a report entitled, “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and athletes,” published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. That review revealed that physical contact, shared facilities and equipment, and poor hygiene were contributing to MRSA among athletes, with football, rugby, and wrestling seen as the riskiest sports for contamination.

Dr. Stanley Deresinski, a Stanford University infectious disease specialist and pro sports consultant said that, “These days, whenever you suspect staph, you should suspect MRSA…. Whenever there is a boil, pimple or rash that is red, painful, lumpy, or hot to the touch, or if there are systemic problems, you should seek medical help,” quoted Businessweek.

Other concerns, said Businessweek, are the herpes virus whose blisters and sores can occur anywhere on the skin and which is treated oral antiviral medications. “Tinea corporis,” or ringworm, tends to take hold on the head, neck and arms and usually appears as a red, circular rash with a center of clear skin. And, athlete’s foot, is a fungus that prefers sweaty feet.

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