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How to Protect Athletes from MRSA

How to Protect Athletes from MRSA

What daily risk do competitive high school fencers face? It's “touché” that’s perilous -- but not because their opponent scores a point. Turns out contact with unsterilized equipment carries a serious risk of infection with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a nasty bacteria that can thrive on an unsanitized sensor wire worn underneath a fencer’s protective gear and passed around from team member to team member.

Fencing isn’t the only sport where there’s this risk -- MRSA is common in wrestling and football teams. It’s ended many NFL careers. Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ guard Carl Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes were off the field because of MRSA.

Anytime there is a chance of skin abrasions, physical contact and shared equipment and facilities, there's a threat of MRSA contamination. The first sign may be a painful boil that requires draining; but unchecked it can cause life-threatening infections in bones, blood, heart valves and lungs.

So here are tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to make all locker rooms more MRSA-resistant and protect athletes from an opponent who doesn’t ever play by the rules:

  • Make sure adequate soap and hot water is always available.
  • Do not share towels, soap, clothes or jewelry.
  • Establish routine cleaning schedules for shared equipment.
  • Encourage athletes to report skin lesions to coaches. Ask coaches to assess athletes regularly for skin lesions.
  • Train athletes and coaches in first aid for cuts and abrasions and recognition of areas/lesions that could become infected.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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