Wrestling and Skin Conditions: Symptoms and Prevention
Sep 16, 2021
The sport of wrestling requires close skin-to-skin contact between opponents. This close contact means there is a high possibility of catching or spreading a variety of skin conditions ranging from ringworm, one of the most common, to impetigo and even MRSA.
These skin conditions must be treated in order to minimize risk of infection to the athlete and cannot be covered just so the wrestler can continue to practice or compete. They must be treated and rendered safe before the athlete can return to the mat, otherwise they could spread it to their teammates and other teams, causing an outbreak that can sideline many people.
Herpetic lesions (aka herpes simplex, herpes zoster, herpes gladiatorium, cold sore/fever blister) are a viral infection transmitted by direct contact and may appear anywhere on the body.
Lesion: Numerous clustered blisters filled with clear fluid on a reddened background. The blisters continue to develop for 7-10 days and eventually become dry, crusted lesions. Recurrent outbreaks are sometimes preceded by irritability, headache, and tingling, burning and/or itching of the skin at the site of recurrence.
Other symptoms may mimic a mild viral illness with fever, joint aches and pains, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes near the affected area and inflammation of the eyes.
Ringwormis a fungal infection that can be seen anywhere but most commonly affects the skin on the body (tinea corporis), the scalp (tinea capitis), the feet (tinea pedis, or athlete's foot), or the groin (tinea cruris, or jock itch).
Tinea corporis lesion: Round, reddened, scaly plaque with raised borders.
Tinea capitis lesion: Round, gray scaly patches accompanied by mild hair loss.
Tinea pedis lesion: Common in between the toes, skin is usually complemented by thick scaling.
Though normally circular in shape, the lesion may present with a more irregularly shaped border in athletes.
Returning to Play
Many of these skin conditions require a course of medication for three days and no new outbreaks for two days, before returning to the mat. Herpetic lesions will take 10-14 days on medication before being allowed back to practice or competition!
Preventing wrestling-related skin conditions is simple. Perform a daily full-body skin check and report any suspicious lesions to your Athletic Trainer or physician as soon as they appear. Launder all game and practice gear daily; some of the most common wrestling skin conditions come from wearing still-damp clothes from the last practice. When damp clothes sit in a dark locker, they grow all kinds of bacteria and viruses.
Follow good personal hygiene practices. Shower with antimicrobial soap immediately after practices and games and wash hands frequently. Avoid sharing towels, razors, athletic equipment, water bottles, and hair clippers. Avoid body shaving. Avoid entering common whirlpools or tubs if skin lesions are present.
The sooner you report a skin condition, the sooner you get treatment and the sooner you return to play. These diseases are all highly contagious. Hiding or failing to notice them could have serious consequences, such as passing them to teammates and/or opponents. If not treated, some of these diseases can lead to potentially dangerous complications –and thus more time out of practice and competition.
Eric Leighton is the lead athletic trainer for Functional Rehab at Nationwide Children's Hospital Sports Medicine. He is also the lead of the Performing Arts Medicine section within Sports Medicine. Eric has treating patients for over 20 years with a focus on performing arts athletes and dancers.
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