High school athletes at risk for skin infections

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High school athletes at risk for skin infections

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by Nate Bynum, KATU Sports and KATU.com Staff

Thursday, May 5th 2016

WILSONVILLE, Ore. – Skin infections – things like ringworm, herpes lesions and bacterial disease – may be more prevalent than you realize in local high school sports.

These conditions are transmitted and spread through some high school sports.

Dave Sherden, medical director of OSAA wrestling, has seen kids deal with these conditions up close. He’s a teacher at Franklin High School and the medical director of the state wrestling tournament.

“What I’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years is probably an increase in recognition and awareness of those things,” he said.

Studies show bacterial infections and ringworm make up about 90 percent of cases. Herpes gladiatorum, nicknamed “mat herpes” because of its frequent presence in wrestling is rarer – about 5 percent of cases. But it’s a lifelong condition.

“Mat herpes sticks with you for life, OK, that has changed that conversation,” said Brad Garrett, assistant executive director of OSAA.

Although treatable, these infections can also leave an emotional scar with teens.

“There’s a certain stigma that goes with having skin infections, especially if they’re on a visible part of the body. And we try to be sensitive with the kids about that,” Sherden said.

Wrestling makes up about three-quarters of high school skin infection cases nationwide, but other sports put kids at risk too.

“The second most incidence of skin disease occurs in football,” said Garrett.

“When you spot an outbreak you have to go through all your equipment, all of your gear with some pretty heavy duty germicide,” Sherden said.

He said there haven’t been many local outbreaks.

“They’ll be occasional, and they’re usually pretty localized,” he said.

You should get to a doctor ASAP if you notice anything amiss. That’s where parents can help.

“Early recognition is the key, and it’s really easy to pass something off or see something on an athlete’s face, head, neck, body, and pass it off as it’s a pimple, it’s a spider bite, it’s something else,” Sherden said. “It’s just a matter of recognizing it, talking to your doctor and recognizing the signs of an outbreak.”

It’s not just high school athletes. You should follow these tips if you play any team sports or work out at the gym:

  • Always shower after practice
  • Never share personal items like soap, razors or towels
  • Wash your hands often
  • And do your laundry. Wash your gear after every practice or workout

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