Skin infections are an issue of concern with contact sports; specifically for wrestlers. In general, good hygiene and cleaning lockers, mats and other equipment are the hallmarks of preventing skin infections. Each state high school athletic association has guidelines and regulations regarding skin infections and participation in competition.
Infections are spread by skin to skin contact. Some are highly contagious and athletes are not permitted to play until the wound is no longer infectious. Here are some conditions to watch out for:
- Tinea Capitis (Scalp Fungus) – an infection hard to treat adequately with topical medication. It requires an oral medication and removal from direct skin to skin contact play for 10-14 days with ongoing treatment.
- Tinea Corporis (Ringworm) – a common fungal infection that can occur anywhere on the body. It is a ring-like lesion with central clearing surrounded by a red or scaly area that is quite itchy. It is usually cured with topical medication. In most cases, the athlete can return to play with the area covered after 72 hours of treatment.
- Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) – a red, scaly and itchy fungal infection of the foot. The rash usually starts in between the toes and occurs more in moist and wet conditions. Because feet are well covered during athletic competition, athlete’s foot does not typically prevent participation.
Except for the scalp, over the counter Lotrimin® is usually the first-line medication for fungal infections.
- Furuncle (Boil) – an infection of the hair follicle that is painful and red (like a large pimple), usually caused by Staph bacteria.
- Impetigo – highly infectious, yellow fluid filled or crusted blisters on the skin caused by Staph or Strep bacteria.
- Cellulitis and Abscess – begins as a red, inflamed area of skin that can eventually lead to a painful, firm bump on the skin with some drainage.
Once these wounds are healed (i.e. no drainage), the athlete can return to competition with the affected area covered. Bacterial infections can be treated with oral antibiotics. See your health care provider for evaluation and treatment options.
- Herpes – itchy, painful blisters that can cause a burning sensation. The blisters can drain and crust over. These blisters and lesions usually heal within seven - 10 days.
- Warts – fleshy colored bumps on the skin that are not painful. Warts will often go away themselves, but this may take months.
For treatment of viral infections, see your healthcare provider for more information.