The New York Times picked up on the study earlier this week, noting that the recommendations could apply to "to anyone who works out in a communal setting, be it a school, commercial gym or Y." They also provided personal stories, like that of Kyle Frey, a 21-year-old wrestler at Drexel University in Philadelphia. What he thought was a pimple he discovered last winter was actually a community-acquired MRSA infection. It grew overnight to the size of his bicep, according to the Times, and he spent five days in the hospital being treated for the antibiotic-resistant staph infection.Skin infections are the most common disease outbreak in competitive sports, according to the NATA report. That may be due in part to skin-to-skin contact between athletes, or because conditions are ripe for transmission. Athletes’ skin is often sweaty, and is frequently compromised from abrasive contact—cuts and scrapes, or from shaving or taping—which can make transmission easier.
Here are some tips, based on the NATA guidelines, to avoid common athletic skin infections:
- Wash your hands. It’s the most important practice in preventing infection.
- Shower your entire body after a workout. Shower sandals are no excuse not to wash your feet.
- Don’t shave areas other than the face and legs—it can increase the risk of acquiring a MRSA infection.
- Clean your mats and exercise equipment before and after use.
- Don’t share personal items, such as bar soap, towels, water bottles, and protective equipment.
- Launder your workout clothes and towels every day after your workout. Disinfect protective equipment.
- Dry feet and groin areas completely.
- If necessary use a 20 percent aluminum chloride foot powder to prevent fungal growth.
- If you get an infection, stay away from public facilities until a doctor clears you to return.
—Kevin McCarthy, associate editor
For more information about gyms and gym safety, see our report on health clubs.
*links to PDF