When you think of sports-related injuries, your mind probably goes straight to concussions or ACL tears. It’s easy to overlook the dangerous pathogens that could be hiding in athletes’ gear. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a potentially deadly bacteria that is often lurking on skin, sports equipment, and surfaces in locker rooms.
Most often, athletes’ MRSA infections will present on the skin as a painful red bump or rash that may be warm to the touch and filled with pus. This wound likely will not heal in a normal amount of time, and may hurt more than a typical cut or scrape. Alongside these symptoms, MRSA may also cause a fever. If you see any of these signs, you should seek medical attention and try to prevent any skin-to-skin contact with others.
MRSA becomes more formidable when it enters your bloodstream, where it can affect organs like your lungs, heart, and bones. In these cases, intravenous antibiotics or surgery are often required. When MRSA is invasive, the infection can progress into pneumonia, sepsis, amputation, and even death.
MRSA is especially dangerous to athletes because it has developed a resistance to the typical antibiotic remedies that can be used for normal staph infections, like penicillin and amoxicillin. To combat the infection, your doctor instead will prescribe empiric antibiotics, which are antibiotics that are most likely to be effective based on where you live.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like MRSA, often emerge due to overzealous or improper use of antibiotics. If you do have a MRSA infection, it is especially important to finish your entire antibiotic prescription to prevent the bacteria from becoming even more drug-resistant.
While MRSA is most commonly spread in healthcare settings, you can also be infected outside of hospitals. Around 5% of the population carries the MRSA bacteria on their skin or in their noses, leaving room for community transmission.
A MRSA-infected person can transmit the bacteria through skin-to-skin contact, sharing razors, or sharing personal items like athletic gear. Once these items have come in contact with MRSA, they are no longer safe to share between athletes. Locker rooms, gyms, and other athletic facilities are hotspots for MRSA transmission because shared machines and equipment may not be properly sanitized between each use.
While MRSA is dangerous, it is easily preventable. Between transmission prevention and regular sanitizing, you can significantly reduce the risk of contracting or spreading MRSA.
There are several ways individuals can protect themselves from staph infections and MRSA. Open wounds are the easiest way for MRSA to make its move. Any time you have a skin wound or cut, it’s always important to cover and clean the wound until it has healed completely. Avoid sharing personal products, such as razors or towels, as the virus can live on these surfaces and spread to others. Also, good personal hygiene, like frequent hand washing and showering after exercise, can keep MRSA at bay.
If you realize that you have been infected with MRSA, seek care sooner rather than later. Once you’ve started your treatment, you should continue to cover the wound, wash your clothes after each wear, and wash your hands every time you come in contact with the wound, bandages, or worn clothes to avoid spreading MRSA to others around you.
On a team or gym level, athletic directors and equipment managers can step in to oversee better sanitation in their locker rooms, training facilities and gear. Teams should be strict with their cleaning protocols and sanitize each piece of equipment before a new person uses it. However, it can be difficult to fully sanitize your equipment, especially gear like helmets and shoulder pads, without causing water damage or leaving behind oily residues.
The Ozone Advantage
When you need to eliminate MRSA bacteria without damaging your gear, ozone has several distinct advantages. The gas sanitizes without using liquids, and is more powerful than bleach and iodine. With Sports-O-Zone, our ozone chamber reaches every nook and cranny with disinfecting ozone to prevent the spread of MRSA, and leaves your gear smelling fresh.
Ready to keep your team safe from MRSA and on the field? Request a quote here.