What if I told you that wrestlers were 16 times more likely to contract an infectious skin disease from dirty or unclean wrestling mats than any other athlete? Would you believe me? Well, this is absolutely true and even worse is that evidence indicates that wrestlers who compete in school tournaments have these odds stacked against them even more. The problem lies, literally, in soiled and dirty wrestling mats waiting eagerly for someone or something to make them fresh and clean wrestling mats. Action in wrestling is non stop and wrestlers sweat and bleed…a lot. They are also the least likely to clean up in between matches since the action moves so fast.
What’s worse is that too often having a clean wrestling mat just isn’t enough, and most wrestling mats have a semi-porous surface making them ripe for absorption and this isn’t a good thing. Wrestling mats are typically made out of two different materials: a trocellen closed cell polyethylene foam, where the top side has a protective vinyl covering and the bottom is a needle punched carpet and the other is polyvinylchloride (PVC) foam. Professional wrestling mats and MMA mats are typically made from a brushed canvas blend meant to have some give. The danger lies in that while all of these materials have protective barriers, they are all shockingly easy to break down. Routine maintenance and flash cleanings all leave behind some degree of damage because of bleach or other harsh cleaners. Overtime, you can actually start to see minuscule tears spreading all throughout the mat like some sort of complex vascular system. If you don’t use something nonabrasive or water based like Clear Gear Sports Spray which is safe to use without causing erosion, then you’ll most definitely be looking at regular wrestling mat replacement and that doesn’t come cheap.
Besides the cost to replace, the small tears can quickly act as portals for mega serious and highly contagious infections like Staph, MRSA, herpes, athlete’s foot; even ringworm to lie in wait. Even when you think your disinfected wrestling mat has been adequately treated, you may be living in a fool’s paradise as skin infections can live practically anywhere and for any amount of time. In many cases, the cleaning solution is either not left on long enough or is not applied thoroughly enough, so it’s important to be sure that anyone left in charge of wrestling mat maintenance is adequately trained.
Finally, we simply can’t discuss cleaning a wrestling mat or disinfecting a wrestling mat without discussing personal hygiene, because truth be told, we can’t expect that the disinfected wrestling mat is going to be enough. If that’s the case, what shall we do in wrestling tournaments that use sand? Shall we replace the sand in between each match? No, we need to think practically. Wrestlers, as well as other athletes should shoot for maintaining good personal hygiene first, then making sure their wrestling gear and wrestling mats stay clean and germ free.
With wrestling’s competition season rapidly approaching, the following tips should be helpful whether you’re a wrestler, coach, trainer or parent:
- Shower immediately after a practice or match and ALWAYS use antibacterial soap
- Wash clothes or give them a good soak with Clear Gear Sport’s Spray’s gallon size application
- Get familiar with the layout of your natural skin. Know where blemishes, birth marks, scars or other marks naturally lie on your skin. This will better enable you to determine whether something is new like a potential infection or MRSA pimple
- Some of the most common portals of entry for MRSA and Staph are in the folds like elbows, behind knees, ears, necks, etc., which are areas you may not regularly examine
- If the skin is hot to the touch, it may be an infection, so pay close attention to your body’s cues
- Fist bump if you must, but avoid shaking hands before and after a match. Your hands may be clean, but theirs may not
- Ask your maintenance team about how they keep the wrestling mats clean or disinfected