In 2009, a high school soccer player from Kentucky tragically passed away after battling the drug-resistant staph infection MRSA. The boy, a high school junior, attended a regular season practice on a Thursday night at the high school’s soccer facilities where his coaches noted that he seemed to be in excellent form. That night, he felt ill and visited a doctor the following day where he was diagnosed with the flu, which is not uncommon for athletes who practice in the cold weather. By Saturday morning, his conditions worsened and he was taken to the emergency room, where he eventually was first diagnosed with pneumonia, and then finally, MRSA. Within 6 days of initially experiencing the symptoms of MRSA, the 16 year old had succumbed to the infection.
Earlier in that same year, 3 other cases of MRSA were reported in the local school district, with one of them resulting in the death of another high school soccer player. It’s been proven that MRSA can spread through skin to skin contact between athletes, but how does a player, a parent, a team, and a school district protect against an invisible disease? Proper sanitation and education is key.
Develop a Sanitation System
High school athletes around the country are some of the most apt to contract staph infections while participating in sports. Most school’s sporting facilities and equipment are dated and not properly cleaned. A professional sports team may have a professional staff to clean their facilities, but a high school is depending on the janitorial staff, which most likely is not equipped with the right sanitary cleaning products and knowledge needed to keep athletes risk free. Since schools share locker rooms, gyms, and training equipment quite often, it’s best to require that each team thoroughly disinfect equipment and mats that they use with an anti-bacterial agent designed to kill staph bacteria, like Clear Gear Sports Spray. Clear Gear Sports Spray is a quick and effortless way to ensure that the next person who uses the equipment isn’t put at risk of harmful bacteria. To use Clear Gear, it’s as simple as spraying all surfaces that may have contacted skin, and letting it air dry before storing it for future use.
Image via Core Institute
Educate Your Athletes
Whether in a school setting, travel teams, or rec ball, educating athletes about the risks of MRSA and staph infection is incredibly important, especially in middle school and high school aged students. As personal hygiene habits are developed, it’s important for young athletes to understand the risk of sharing items that may have bodily fluids on them, whether it be an extra towel, a t-shirt for practice, or a pair of shin guards. In addition to informing your athletes about sharing, it’s also important to develop a habit of using hand sanitizer as athletes arrive and depart from athletic facilities. This regular practice can prevent the student from spreading the infectious bacteria around the school/facilities or take it home with them.
Image via Kids Health
Have a Plan
MRSA and staph infections enter the body through an opening in the body. The most common “entry-point” for bacteria is through small cuts, scrapes, or burns. As more and more high schools make the change from natural grass to artificial surfaces, turf burns are becoming increasingly common for all athletes who use the surface, ranging from football and soccer to field hockey and lacrosse. Whether you have on-field medical staff or just a first-aid kit on the sidelines, players should have their turf burn disinfected and covered as quickly as possible before returning to play. Coaching staffs should always be on the lookout for a player who is moving lethargically and displaying flu-like symptoms, as that can be an indication that a more serious staph infection is beginning to affect the body.
While the story of the Kentucky soccer player proves that MRSA can move fast and have a fatal consequence, the majority of MRSA cases that are diagnosed early on are able to be treated successfully with the use of antibiotics. Be sure to have a discussion with your athletes soon to ensure that they understand the real risks that are associated with this type of infection. For more information on how Clear Gear Sports Spray can protect your sports program or team from MRSA and other dangerous viruses and infections, click here.