Junior Seau of the Miami Dolphins, four members of Southern Cal’s football team, and several kids on football, wrestling and even fencing teams have all been hospitalized this year for life-threatening skin infections. These high-profile cases have hi-lighted a risk that all athletes should be aware of.
In every wrestling room around the country, kids are at risk.
“Pretty much every practice you’re gonna leave with some kind of scrape or something,” says 18 year-old wrestler, Bobby Caperton.
17 year-old John Cook, 17 agrees that those injuries are just part of the sport. “I’ve had a couple of scrapes in there and not thought anything about it,” he says.
And it’s not just wrestling. Any contact sport puts kids at risk for cuts and scrapes, and something more serious.
Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Robert Harrison, explains, ” It’s called staph or staphylococcus aureus, which is a normal skin germ and can cause infection, inflammation and swelling, which is a cellulitis or deeper infections.”
It is a normal skin germ that’s harmless.until it gets into a cut. And then, untreated, says Dr. Harrison, “It gets in the bloodstream and it can cause sepsis or infection of the blood, which makes you very sick and can result in death.”
In addition to the potential seriousness of the infection, the germs are also becoming more difficult to treat.
“Due to the widespread use of antibiotics in America, staph, staph aureus around the country is now becoming resistant to penicillins,” says Dr. Robert Harrison
There are other antibiotics that will work, but prevention is the key. The first step is keeping sports equipment clean.
Cook says his wrestling team is careful about their equipment. “We wash down the mats every day before practice and after practice,” he says.
The second step is to keep skin clean, including cuts and scrapes. Dr. Harrison recommends, “the best thing you can do is a good soap and water cleaning of an abrasion.”
And lastly, when kids do get a cut, watch closely for signs of infection, which includes, “an area of redness and swelling and pain and tenderness on the skin. They may have fever as well and then they should be seen fairly quickly by a physician to diagnose and treat.”
And keeping the kids informed about how to protect themselves can be effective. Caperton agrees, “you leave with a scrape or something like that, there’s no doubt that it could be dangerous. And it puts in your mind that maybe you should clean the mats a little more thoroughly.”
Experts also recommend against using topical antibiotics on everyday cuts and scrapes, because they can contribute to antibiotic-resistant germs.