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Protect Your Athletes: MRSA Prevention

As the Mayo Clinic notes, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, has been a problem in traditional healthcare environments for decades. However, more recently, it has become a serious issue for athletes and athletic trainers.  

The MRSA Problem

Research from the Journal of Athletic Training found that 92 percent of surveyed athletic trainers felt that MRSA is a national problem. Joe Gallo, professor of athletic training and program director at Salem State University, notes that there are several issues that make fighting MRSA challenging for ATs. 

For one, attitudes about showering have changed among athletes over the years. Gallo said it was once common for athletes to shower directly after practices and games. That’s not the case anymore, and this delay in personal hygiene allows bacteria to linger on athletes’ skin. 

Also, locker rooms and athletic training facilities are moist, hot environments, which promote the growth of bacteria. Couple that with the cuts and scrapes that come with competitive sports and the inevitable skin-to-skin contact, and you have an easy chance of infection. 

But skin-to-skin contact isn’t the only transmission method to worry about. If drainage from a MRSA skin infection touches an object—such as a weight bench, electrode, or towel—the next person to touch it is at risk for infection. 

The Dangers of MRSA

MRSA first presents as a skin infection, but things can quickly take a turn for the worse. It can cause severe infection, often affecting the bloodstream, and can even lead to the loss of limbs or death in extreme cases. 

There have been several notable examples of MRSA sidelining and killing athletes. In one high profile case from 2003, a wide receiver at Lycoming College named Ricky Lannetti died from a MRSA infection. 

Mike Gansey, a promising college basketball player for West Virginia, had his career derailed by MRSA. Despite being projected as an early NBA pick, he went undrafted after feeling weak during workouts. At the time, Gansey wasn’t aware that he had developed a MRSA infection. Eventually, he signed as a free agent but his condition worsened. The Miami Heat released him after he lost 30 pounds due to what was then confirmed as a MRSA infection. Even after completing treatment, the infection resurfaced.

New York Giants tight-end Daniel Fells retired after struggling against MRSA. It was so severe that doctors thought Fells’s foot would need to be amputated. That ultimately didn’t happen, but Fells still went through 10 surgeries in 2015 because of the infection. 

These stories illustrate why it’s so important to take preventative measures in your athletic training facility. Once MRSA starts spreading, it’s difficult to contain, but there are steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of infection. 

Disinfect the Facility

Disinfect your locker rooms and athletic training facility regularly. There are multiple ways to go about it, but The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states there’s no evidence suggesting spraying or fogging works better than thoroughly cleaning frequently touched surfaces and shared equipment. 

The CDC does suggest using detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered detergents/disinfectants to fight against MRSA. 

Use Quality Products

Supplies like electrodes or heat packs are continually reused in athletic training facilities. There is potential to spread bacteria during each use—even if they’re used on the same athlete. Using antimicrobial and bacteria-resistant products can prevent this. 

MicroBlock antimicrobial electrodes kill and inhibit the growth of bacteria on and around the electrodes. Independent testing shows its antimicrobial gel is more than 99 percent effective in reducing MRSA bacteria. It’s also effective against E. Cloacae (CRE), E. Coli (ESBL),  E. Faecalis (VRE), P. Aeruginosa and A. Baumannii (Multidrug Resistant).

Most heat packs are constructed from canvas and require extreme heat to kill bacteria, making them potentially dangerous to athletes. HydraHeat Packs have a non-porous covering that can be easily sanitized after use, which also allows them to be heated at a safer temperature.

Heat units are another source for concern. Many traditional heat units are plagued with rust and fight to keep water clean, exposing athletes to bacteria. The HydraTherm heating unit is the first composite design on the market, meaning its tank will never rust. Its design also means cleaning is needed as few as once every six months. 

Promote Proper Hygiene

Support proper hygiene practices among your athletes. The CDC and Mayo Clinic advise athletes to take showers immediately after exercising. Additionally, both organizations warn against sharing items that touch bare skin such as bar soap, razors, or towels. 

Hand hygiene is important, as well. Make sure liquid soap is stocked at locker room and athletic training room sinks. Athletes should wash their hands before and after practices, games, and weight training. 

Athletes also have a bad habit of stuffing dirty uniforms and workout clothes back into their lockers or bags. Promote the regular washing of uniforms, workout clothes, and gear (if it’s able to be washed).

Practice Wound Control

Broken skin provides an access point for infection. Make sure wounds are being taken care of immediately and monitored during practices and games. 

Stanford Children’s Health suggests keeping all cuts, scrapes, and abrasions completely covered with a bandage. Advise athletes to wash any wounds throughout the day and to apply fresh bandages after washing. 

By taking these precautions, you can help keep your athletes protected against the dangers of MRSA infection. 

If you would like to know more about MicroBlock antimicrobial electrodes, or would like a free sample of this innovative product, please contact us on our website