Common Skin Infections for Wrestlers and What to Do About Them

When it comes to conditioning, strength, agility, and discipline, it doesn’t get much better than wrestling. However, this high-contact sport can also pose a lot of potential problems on the skin infection front.

Generally speaking, skin infections occur when the skin has been compromised in some way and microbes (AKA bacteria) make their way in. As you can imagine, a contact sport like wrestling provides plenty of opportunity for skin abrasions. Couple that with a hot and sweaty environment where bacteria thrives, and you have the perfect recipe for a nasty skin infection.

Fortunately, there are a number of relatively simple measures a wrestler can take to significantly reduce risk of infection.

Common Wrestling Skin Infections

Before we delve into how to prevent wrestling skin infections, it helps to know a bit about what, exactly, these infections are.

Folliculitis

Folliculitis (razor burn or ingrown hairs) is inflammation and infection of the hair follicles. It can occur on any part of the body with hair, but it’s most common to those areas that experience a lot of friction from clothes or rubbing. Given that wrestling involves so much friction from body-to-body contact, it’s quite easy for wrestlers to contract this infection.

MRSA

MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and is a type of staph infection that’s notoriously resistant to a wide range of antibiotics. It’s highly contagious and dangerous. A recent Vanderbilt study found 23- 29% of contact sports athletes to be colonized with this infection.

Tinea Corporis

Tinea Corporis, better known as ringworm, is a fungal infection that presents as a red and scaly rash that forms a circle on the skin, hence the name. It’s very contagious and can occur on virtually any part of the body, so wrestlers are particularly susceptible to it. Athlete’s foot and jock itch are both terms that refer to this infection depending on where it presents on the body.

Herpes

Herpes Type 1 is a highly contagious viral infection, which means it can’t be treated with antibiotics, and it’s easily transmitted from skin-to-skin contact. It typically appears as a fluid-filled blister on the skin and can enter the body through any break in the skin, such as a mat burn or small cut. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes, so once you have it, you have it for life.

Impetigo

Impetigo is a common bacterial infection (caused by Staph and Strep bacteria) that can sprout up anywhere the skin is compromised, such as minor cuts, eczema, mat burns, and bug bites; however, it’s most often seen on the face, arms, and legs. Symptoms of impetigo include often itchy and occasionally painful sores that eventually grow into oozing blisters. Like the other infections listed here, it’s quite contagious via skin-to-skin contact.

How to Prevent Wrestling Skin Infections

While it’s true that the aforementioned infections are easily transmitted, there are a lot of simple and easy things wrestlers can do to protect themselves from them.

Use a Proper Cleanser

The type of body cleanser you use is hugely important when it comes to preventing infection. To be effective, it must be non-drying, non-irritating, and tough on microbes and anti-inflammatory. You should also avoid anything that has a fragrance as fragrances can be sensitizing to the skin.

Cleanse at the Right Time

In addition to using an effective cleanser, you also need to cleanse at the right time. That means cleansing within one hour of working out. If you wait any longer, the infection-causing bacteria bond too strongly to the skin and become much more difficult to slough off.

Use Effective Cleansing Techniques

In addition to using an effective cleanser, you also need to cleanse at the right time. That means cleansing within one hour of working out. If you wait any longer, the infection-causing bacteria bond too strongly to the skin and become much more difficult to slough off. After showering, dry completely and wear clean dry clothes.

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