Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.
Many athletes think about protecting their muscles, joints and bones.
But the skin?
It’s not typically the first area that comes to mind when protecting against injury. However, the health of your skin should be an important consideration if you are an athlete in close-contact sports like wrestling or rugby. Athletes who use communal showers or towels that are washed with other athletes’ towels should also be aware of the risk of skin infection.
Types of Skin Infections In Athletes
Most skin infections can be classified as fungal, bacterial or viral.
- FUNGAL INFECTIONS account for the majority of skin infections in athletes. Athlete’s foot is perhaps the best-known fungal infection. This fungus thrives in warm, dark and most environments, and has the highest prevalence in basketball players, runners, soccer players, and swimmers. Athlete’s Toe (onychomycosis), a fungal infection of the nail, is another common fungal infection. Ringworm is an additional manifestation the fungus that causes athlete’s foot.
- BACTERIAL INFECTIONS include staph infections, which can have multiple appearances (oftentimes small boils on the skin).
- VIRAL INFECTIONS include herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV), which is most common in close-contact sports like judo, wrestling and rugby, as well as verruca vulgaris (warts).
Preventing Skin Infections In Athletes
There are habits you can adopt to reduce your risk for contracting a skin infection:
- Wash and dry hands thoroughly.
- Report any sores or lesions to your coach
- Cover sores and lesions
- Wash and disinfect your athletic gear
- Do not share towels or any hygiene items with others
- Wash towels after every use
- Sit on a clean towel and use it as a barrier between yourself and equipment when in shared exercise/changing facilities
- Avoid whirlpools and steam rooms if you have any sores
If you are working out in a shared training room, be sure to spray machinery with disinfectant before and after use. If disinfectant is not available, ask a training room staff member. Many organizations have rules requiring the use of disinfectant in their facilities.
Skin Infection? Schedule With a Houston Sports Medicine Doctor
If you have a skin infection, go to a clinic for testing. You cannot tell if an infection is a staph infection or something else without testing. Do not rupture any sores. Keep the area protected, and do not touch it until you receive medical attention.
To schedule an appointment with a downtown Houston sports medicine doctor, please call our offices at (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online.
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.