Sporty Pathogens


Parents with kids who play sports usually worry about injuries, not dangerous pathogens. Yet a new report urges parents and schools to help prevent a spread of infections among young athletes.

In the US, about sixty percent of students between ages 5 and 18 play sports. That's about 36 million children who could benefit from a sports hygiene talk with their doctor during an annual physical. Kids should avoid sharing water bottles and equipment, but microbes also lurk in showers, locker rooms, gym mats, towels, and gym equipment. Plus, close contact sports such as wrestling or rugby and even basketball can transfer pathogens.

In fact, two herpes virus diseases named after sports are called Herpes gladiatorum and Herpes rugbiorum. They're caused by the same virus that causes cold sores. Once a person is infected, this virus sets up a silent infection in the nerves and can reactivate causing new skin infections at the same spot.

Much more alarming are community acquired methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA which can become life threatening. They start with painful red bumps that can become deep painful abscesses requiring surgery. The bacteria can also enter the bloodstream infecting bones, joints, heart valves and lungs. That's why athletes with skin lesions should be examined by a doctor. And coaches should follow precautions with blood and other bodily fluids.

Protect kids by keeping their immunizations current, including their annual flu shots and the meningitis vaccine. Make sure they wash their hands after a match and facility equipment should be regularly sanitized to protect our young athletes.

More Information

Infectious Diseases Associated With Organized Sports and Outbreak Control
Participation in organized sports has a variety of health benefits but also has the potential to expose the athlete to a variety of infectious diseases, some of which may produce outbreaks. Major risk factors for infection include skin-to-skin contact with athletes who have active skin infections, environmental exposures and physical trauma, and sharing of equipment and contact with contaminated fomites...

MRSA Infection
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria that's become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. A type of MRSA infection has occurred in the wider community ' among healthy people. This form, community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), often begins as a painful skin boil. It's spread by skin-to-skin contact. At-risk populations include groups such as high school wrestlers, child care workers and people who live in crowded conditions...

Viral Skin Infection: Herpes gladiatorum ('Mat Herpes')
Herpes gladiatorum ("mat herpes") is a skin infection caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), the same virus that causes cold sores on the lips. HSV-1 infections are very common. In the United States, 30% to 90% of people are exposed to herpes by adulthood, although many people never develop symptoms...