Top Reported Infections in Athletic Situations

Infectious Diseases are transmitted by air droplets or by direct contact with people or objects that people just touched. For any of these conditions, except perhaps minor colds, seek medical treatment.

Precautions for all infections that can be transmitted by skin contact :

Don’t share towels

Don’t wipe your face with a towel you use on equipment.

Don’t place your face directly on places or pieces of equipment (eg. physioballs, machine pads, benches). If you must place your face on an object, use a clean towel.

Shower after a workout.

Use shower slippers when walking in the locker room and showers.

Don’t sit naked on benches. If you must sit, put a clean towel on the bench.

Don’t use a towel on your feet and DO NOT then proceed to use the towel on your face or groin region.

Use liquid soap, not bars.

Wash your hands — well. To kill germs you must wash under nails and rub thoroughly for 20-30 seconds.

Be very careful with hands in or near garbage cans. It is best to use gloves or a stick to search in the can. If you must place your hands in a garbage can, watch for sharp objects that may have been inappropriately placed in the garbage can. Wash your hands immediately after contact.

Keep an eye out for people that might have suspicious rashes or infections. Take extra precautions if you follow such an individual on a piece of equipment. Most health clubs have antiseptic sprays or antiseptic disposable towels on hand in the fitness center floor area.

Don’t ignore skin infections that won’t heal.

Precautions for infection of illnesses transmitted by air:

Avoid close quarters in small rooms where people are known to be sick

Avoid inhaling in an area where someone has just sneezed. Move calmly and inhale out of the immediate area.

If you are visiting someone at the hospital, follow any hospital posted instructions, such as wearing a mask, etc.

Prevention Tips Specific to Prevention of the Common Cold: Follow these simple rules to help prevent catching a cold:

Practice regular hand-washing. Never eat, touch your eyes, nose or mouth before you have washed your hands that have been in contact with public items, such as door handles, merchandise, money, shaken hands, exercise equipment — to name just a few. The virus can survive for weeks on contaminated surfaces.

Disinfect and use antibacterial gels. The chemicals probably don’t kill the cold virus but the mechanical washing probably removes the virus.

Avoid people who are sick — close your eyes and avoid breathing air near the mist where someone has just sneezed.

Get plenty of rest and don’t skip meals or go hungry. Eat balanced meals.

Frequent Hand Washing, especially in Winter can cause hands to become red and dry and can even cause the skin to crack. Use hand lotions to prevent skin aggravation.


Common Cold/Flu
See topic in Special Populations under Cold/Flu.

Herpes Infections
Herpes Gladiatorum
Skin infection with HSV-1 reported in wrestlers and rugby players. Lesions occur most often on the head and neck. Primary infection may cause constitutional symptoms with fever, malaise, weight loss, and regional lymphadenopathy. Ocular involvement includes keratitis, conjunctivitis, and blepharitis. In a national survey of 1477 trainers of athletes, approximately 3% of high school wrestlers were reported to have developed HSV skin infections during the 1984-85 season

Methycillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, some call it a “superbug,”  What starts as a skin infection can become a deadly pneumonia or blood or bone infection in a matter of days if not treated correctly. MRSA is resistant to anywhere from 15 to 30 different antibiotics. A communal locker room, with many people in one area, can help bacteria spread

MRSA infections are reportedly on the increase in health clubs, high school athletics, college athletics and professional athletics. NFL players Kenyatta Walker of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and Junior Seau and Charles Rodgers of the Miami Dolphins are reported to have been hospitalized with MRSA infections.

Tinea Corpis — Body Ringworm
Tinea corpis is an in infection in the skin of the body caused by a dermatophyte fungus. More commonly transmitted in close person-to-person contact in warm, humid areas. Wrestling teams have the most need for concern to prevent transmission of Tinea Corpis.

Tinea Cruris — Jock Itch

Tinea cruruis is an infection of the groin area due to a dermatophyte fungus. Infection often comes from the feet (tinea pedis) or nails (tinea unguium) originally and then is spread by scratching or by the use of an infected towel.

Tinea Pedis — Athletes Foot
Tinea pedis is a foot infection due to a dermatophyte fungus. Tinea pedis thrives in warm humid conditions and is most common in young adult men. The fungal spores, dermatophyte, can persist for years in bathrooms, changing rooms and swimming pools. Walking bare foot on a communal floor or sharing a towel can result in infection. See also  DermNet NZ

Tinea Unguium — Nail Fungus
Tinea Unguium is a fungal infection of the nails of the fingers or toes, known as “onychomycosis.” Can result from prolonged Tinea Pedis infections.

Additional Notes:
ABC Primetime conducted an undercover investigation of a number of gyms, swabbing everything in sight — from the free weights to the locker rooms — and found germs practically everywhere. Here are important notes from the January 13, 2005 report:

On a set of dumbbells, “Primetime” found staphylococcus, streptococcus viridans, diptheroids and e-coli — the most common bacteria in human feces.

On one exercise bike, “Primetime” found candida — the germ that causes yeast infections.

E. Coli was most prevalent on the shower floor. Germs were noted to survive on the floor and on the shower walls.

Becker TM, Kodsi R, Bailey P, et al. Grappling with herpes: herpes gladiatorum. Am J Sports Med 1988;16:665-9

CDC MRSA Fact Sheet

Is Your Health Club Unhealthy on Primetime