Staph and MRSA Infections
Once thought to occur only in hospitals or health care facilities, staph (Staphylococcus aureus) and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections have risen sharply in the athletic community.
Staph Infections in Athletes
While staph bacteria is generally harmless unless it enters the body through an open wound, serious infections have increased, most notably among athletes who share personal items, such as equipment.
Contributing factors in the rise of staph infections may include:
- Germ mutation
- Unnecessary use of antibiotics
Staph bacteria is normally found on the skin or in the nose of roughly one-third of the population. If a person has staph on the skin or in the nose but is not sick, he or she is said to be colonized.
Healthy people can be colonized and show no symptoms. However, they can pass the bacteria to others.
Common symptoms of staph infections include:
- Areas of red, irritated, painful skin
- Pus-filled blisters
MRSA, which can be fatal, is a strain of staph that is resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it.
MRSA generally starts as small red bumps that resemble:
- Spider bites
They can quickly turn into deep, painful abscesses.
Proper Wound Care Can Help Prevent Infections
To combat staph and MRSA, many school athletic departments are implementing new practices to deal with open wounds:
- An athlete who sustains an open wound should see a certified athletic trainer.
- All open wounds should be thoroughly cleaned using a surgical scrubbing soap.
- All wounds must be covered prior to resuming activity.
- Athletes should have wounds cleaned and covered again following activity.
- Wounds should be treated on a daily basis until they are fully healed.
- All athletes should shower after practices and games.