athletes need to be careful?
is most frequently found in hospitals or other
healthcare facilities, infecting people who are ill with
weakened immune systems. However, in the past decade it
has increasingly emerged as a cause of infections in
healthy individuals, including athletes at all levels.
is it? Most have probably heard of a “Staph”
infection. Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) are bacteria
that are one of the most common causes of skin
infections in the United States. MRSA (Methicillin-resistant
Staphyloccus aureus) is a specific strain of Staph
infection that is resistant to the antibiotics
(penicillin, etc.) most commonly used to treat these
most commonly transmitted by direct skin to skin contact
through open skin lesions such as abrasions or hair
follicles, etc. Therefore, athletes who participate in
contact sports may be at a higher risk to contract a
MRSA infection. MRSA cases can also develop from shared
towels, soaps, improperly treated whirlpools, and
equipment (Mats, pads, surfaces, etc.).
Center for Disease Control (CDC) has emphasized the
“Five C’s framework“ indicating primary risk factors for
MRSA skin infections:
Crowding; Close skin to skin contact; Contaminated items
and surfaces (i.e., towels, razors, soap); Compromised
skin integrity (i.e., cuts or abrasions); Cleanliness
(i.e., poor hygiene).
does it look like? Staph or MRSA infections usually
present as skin infections such as pimples, pustules and
boils, which are red, swollen, and painful or have pus
or other drainage. Commonly these infections are
misidentified as spider bites or confused with existing
turf burns or abrasions.
should you do? These skin lesions should be covered
to help reduce the risk of spreading the infection, and
the individual should be seen by a physician for proper
treatment. It is important to note, that without the
proper treatment, these infections can cause pneumonia,
bloodstream infections, bone and/or joint infections, or
surgical wound infections. The symptoms frequently seen
with these more serious conditions include fever,
chills, and shortness of breath.
can MRSA infections be prevented? Although Staph and
MRSA infections are treatable, the best way to combat
these infections is to take measures to prevent them in
the first place. The CDC recommends the following
measures for preventing these infections:
Frequently wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm
water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
Immediate showering with hot water and liquid
antibacterial soap following all practices and
competitions; Avoid sharing towels, equipment, razors,
soap, and daily athletic gear, etc.; Properly wash
athletic gear and towels after each use; Use a barrier
(clothing or towel) between your skin and shared
equipment; Wipe surfaces of equipment before and after
and properly cover any open wounds such as turf burns,
abrasions, etc. with an appropriate bandage; Avoid
whirlpools, hydrotherapy pools, cold tubs, swimming
pools, and other common tubs if you have an open wound;
Maintain clean facilities and equipment; Do not ignore
skin infections, pimples, pustules, abscesses, etc.
report these to a Sports Medicine staff member or
Conclusion: Due to the increased threat of MRSA
infections to healthy individuals, athletes must take
precautions to prevent contracting these infections.
Prevention is the key. Athletes need to avoid sharing
equipment and towels and maintain good hygiene. If an
athlete or someone they know has what appears to be a
staph or MRSA infection they should contact a physician
for evaluation as soon as possible. Do not ignore these
skin lesions, as they could lead to more serious
complications and hospitalization.
MRSA. Available at:
M., et al., “Athletic Trainers and MRSA Infections:
What’s the Score?” NATA NEWS, May 2007, pp 12-15.
Author: Darin Pranzoni PT, ATC is the Sports Medicine
Coordinator for Wuesthoff Rehabilitation Services in