When you’re part of a team, you get really close with each other. Athletic teams often share inside jokes and a spirit of camaraderie—but they can also share germs. From shared gear to skin-to-skin contact, staph infections have the potential to rip through your entire team and even put an end to your season.
If you’re a coach, athletic trainer, or in any sports-related role, you’ve likely seen some gnarly staph infections among players. But why are locker rooms such a breeding ground for infection? And how can you prevent staph?
What is staph?
Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, commonly called staph, are germs that often cause infections on the skin. These infections range in severity, from mild rash up to more serious bloodstream infections and heart conditions.
Most of the time, staph presents as a skin rash, which may look like boils, large blisters, swelling, or a burn-like rash. Usually, these kinds of infections can be cleared up with antibiotics and proper cleaning and covering of the rash. Encourage players (or their parents) to contact a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
In some cases, however, staph can be much more dangerous. Certain types of staph bacteria, called MRSA, have become resistant to some antibiotics, which results in more serious and difficult to treat infections. MRSA can result in sepsis, amputation, and possibly death if not treated in time. Other more serious forms of staph include septic arthritis, toxic shock syndrome, and bloodstream infections.
Risk factors for staph infections
Unfortunately, athletes are at extremely high risk for staph infections due to frequent close contact and shared gear. Because of the potentially deadly effects of staph infections, your coaching staff needs to be acutely aware of signs of staph and prevention methods.
In contact sports, you may have frequent skin-to-skin interactions with other players, which can transmit staph bacteria. Team rituals may also include close contacts that could easily spread staph without proper protection.
On top of close contact with other players, your team members may feel really comfortable sharing gear with each other. While we commend their giving nature, sharing isn’t always caring. Without proper sanitizing practices, sharing gear can quickly spread staph bacteria between team members—potentially benching several of your players at once.
Unfortunately, gear isn’t the only potential vector for staph infections. Your locker rooms themselves have the potential to spread staph. Staph bacteria can live for up to 24 hours on hard, non-porous surfaces—and MRSA can live even longer. Any athlete stepping barefoot onto the locker room floor or sitting on a bench in shorts is at risk to contract staph.
How to prevent staph infections on your team
You don’t have to sit back and let staph overtake your team, nor do you have to ban team spirit. Instead, you’ll need to put some infection prevention strategies in place to eliminate your risk of staph.
For starters, every coach, trainer, and player should be briefed about the dangers of staph. Be sure to emphasize the importance of proper hygiene (e.g. showers and fresh clothes immediately after practice) and wound covering and care. Coaches and athletic trainers should also know the signs and symptoms of staph so they can warn parents and other players before it spreads. These measures can mitigate the risk of an outbreak if one player does happen to contract staph.
You can also implement a strict sanitizing and disinfection protocol to prevent outbreaks caused by shared gear. At least once a week, all gear should be thoroughly sanitized using a powerful antimicrobial agent.
And while you’re at it, you’ll need to find a way to sanitize the locker room as a whole. The locker room is supposed to be a safe place to bond as a team, prepare for the big game, and celebrate after a big win—so don’t let it be the downfall of your season. This may seem like a difficult task, but there are safe, effective ways to sanitize entire rooms.
The Sports-O-Zone Advantage
At Sports-O-Zone, we’re dedicated to protecting athletes and keeping them on the field. Our Sports-O-Zone sanitizing chamber harnesses the power of ozone to significantly reduce germs like staph that live on your gear. Helmets, water bottles, shoulder pads, and everything in between are safe to use after being sanitized with ozone.
To sanitize your locker room, our Gear Blaster can sanitize up to 2,000 square feet, also using ozone. This will give you peace of mind every time you walk into the locker room—and it will get rid of that musty gym-sock smell.
If you’re interested in preventing staph infections with Sports-O-Zone, get in touch with us.