MRSA: A Growing Issue for Athletes

By guest author and athletic advisor to PurThread Technologies, Pat Connor, MD

 A MRSA awareness campaign for athletes from the Massachusetts health department

A MRSA awareness campaign for athletes from the Massachusetts health department

MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and other infection risks for athletes are in the news again as the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers star forward Blake Griffin undergoes surgery for a staph infection in his elbow. While Griffin’s infection wasn’t due to MRSA, it wasn’t too long ago that the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers experienced a MRSA outbreak leaving three players in a fight against the potentially career-ending infection.

MRSA is a highly contagious and easily transmittable bacteria that can lead to serious infections from skin-to-skin contact or contact with contaminated surfaces. Over the years, there have been numerous reports of community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) outbreaks among close-contact sports teams around the world, including football, wrestling, rugby and volleyball. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CA-MRSA disproportionately attacks the athletic community. The infection is difficult to treat because it is resistant to many common antibiotics, and can be life-threatening.

Risk Factors

MRSA can live on surfaces for extended periods of time making athletes who share locker rooms, gym mats and other athletic equipment particularly susceptible to contracting the infection. Symptoms include skin swelling, redness, and lesions or abscesses that are painful. Risk factors for MRSA include:

  • Recent antibiotic use
  • Turf burns and cuts
  • Uncovered areas such as elbows, knees and forearms
  • Sharing towels, clothing or personal items and equipment
  • Poor hand hygiene

Prevention is Key

Prevention is an essential component to controlling MRSA infections and outbreaks. After all, it’s not just professional athletes that are susceptible to the infection. From children playing sports to gym goers, nearly all active individuals are at risk.

One of the most important ways to prevent the spread of this infection is through personal hygiene. Individuals should follow the following prevention strategies:

  • Wash your hands. Hand-washing is your best defense against germs. Wash hands with hot water and antibacterial soap for at least 15 seconds, then dry them with a fresh towel.
  • Keep wounds covered. Keep all cuts and abrasions clean and covered with sterile, dry bandages until they are fully healed. Infected sores may contain MRSA so keeping wounds covered will prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Avoid sharing personal items. MRSA can thrive on surfaces for an extended period of time so avoid sharing items such as towels, razors and clothing.
  • Consider antimicrobial gear. As mentioned before, MRSA can spread through contaminated surfaces such as clothing, towels and mats. To prevent the spread of infection through surface contamination, ask for durable, high quality gear with antimicrobial technology. PurThread is the first company to develop technology that safely embeds silver within yarn, yielding intrinsic antimicrobial benefits that don’t wash off or wear away for the life of the fabric, helping kill bacteria like MRSA before it can spread. Potential applications include workout gear, team uniforms and equipment bags.

To prevent the spread of this potentially dangerous and deadly infection, it’s important to be mindful of the potential risk factors as well as the symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please consult your doctor.