Dangerous Bug Threatens High School Athletes

There is no sport like high school and college wrestling. It doesn't have the following of basketball or football but the athletes who choose wrestling as their sport are true competitors. These young men are strong and agile but there is an opponent out there that the strongest wrestler can not compete against. That opponent is staphylococcus infection otherwise referred to as staph.

The reason staph is so prevalent with wrestlers is the skin to skin contact and skin to mat contact that is unavoidable due to the nature of the sport. Staph and it's mutated cousin methicillian resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have been known to kill.

Years ago the presence of staph was minimal and wrestlers didn't worry about contracting diseases. The worst a wrestler had to worry about was mat burns and cauliflower ears. But today's athlete has this nasty bacteria to worry about. It is estimated that as much as 30% of the population carry staph on their skin or in their nose. Wrestlers contract staph infections from skin to skin contact, from skin to mat contact and from sharing head gear and towels.

In 2008 a high school wrestler from Florida died from complications of staph infection. If the infection goes untreated, the staph can enter the blood stream and become fatal.

Staph can present like a pimple, bug bite or ingrown hair follicle. Over the course of a few days the pimple progressively grows in into a boil. Once the infection is the size of a boil and/or it is accompanied by fever and chills it is imperative for the athlete to seek medical attention. The boil will need to be surgically lanced and cleaned and antibiotics are required. This can be done in a doctor's office, urgent care or ER. Do not under any circumstance lance the boil yourself. In extreme cases, the staph may be MRSA. This means it is resistant to many of the well known antibiotics and the athlete will most likely need to be hospitalized and given IV antibiotics.

The best way to avoid an infection of any kind is to follow good hygiene. Wrestlers need to insist on cleaning the mats after every practice or competition. Wrestlers should not share equipment such as shoes, headgear or towels. Everyone needs to shower after wrestling and use an antibiotic soap. If an athlete notices a painful pimple or boil, especially if accompanied by fever, he should contact his coach, trainer and parents immediately and seek medical attention. That wrestler should not wrestle until cleared by a physician.

Wrestling is a great sport dating back to ancient Greece. It would be a tragedy if school officials found the sport too dangerous due to communicable diseases. If you're a parent of a wrestler be sure to explain the risks to your student athlete. If you're a wrestler take some responsibility and practice good personal hygiene. Don't share equipment and encourage your teammates to do the same.