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Wrestling and the Risk of Infection

With wrestling season upon us, it’s important for athletes, parents, and coaches to be aware that skin lesions in wrestling are almost as common as injuries. But with the right knowledge and preparation, you can prevent them.
Three common types of skin lesions in wrestling are:
  • Bacterial
  • Viral
  • Fungal

Bacterial skin lesions

  • Impetigo is a bacterial infection commonly found in adolescents. It appears as a pimple-shaped vesicle that eventually bursts to form patches of red, irritated skin, accompanied by a yellow crust.
  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is another bacterial infection that can occur in any wound. You should suspect MRSA if your wound wasn’t properly cleaned, you develop a fever, and the wound becomes exceedingly painful.

Viral skin lesions

  • Herpes simplex, zoster, and gladiatorum are all viral infections commonly related to wrestling. About one in 10 Americans carries a form of the virus, which can be spread through body contact with an open wound or mucous membrane (mouth or nose). Herpes forms a cluster of painful blisters that usually clear up within seven to 10 days.
  • Molluscum contagiosum is very common among adolescent athletes and is spread through skin-to-skin contact. The lesion is flesh-colored with a dimpled center.

Fungal skin lesions

  • Ringworm is the main fungal (or tinea) lesion in wrestling. It appears as a circular plaque with a skin-tone center.
  • Athlete’s foot and jock itch are other common fungal infections.

Treatment and prevention

  • Bacterial infections: topical antibiotic; more severe cases may require an oral antibiotic.
  • Viral infections: topical anti-viral medication; more severe cases may require an oral anti-viral.
  • Viral lesions also may be treated by:
    • Curettage, a process of scraping and removing the lesion
    • Freezing the lesion entirely
  • Fungal lesions: topical or oral anti-fungal medications
Help avoid fungal lesions by maintaining clean and dry equipment and clothing. You can prevent and contain all of these lesions with proper hygiene and a watchful eye.
If you suspect any type of skin lesion, disease, or condition, please contact your family physician or a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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