Protect Your Feet: The Athlete’s Foot Dilemma

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What is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is no joke. Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is an invasive and distracting fungal infection capable of derailing any athlete. The pain and discomfort caused by this condition arises in a myriad of ways. Common symptoms include peeling, redness, itching, burning and sometimes blisters and sores on or under the foot or between the toes. These pesky symptoms are recurring and difficult to treat. Unfortunately, this infection is contagious.

Can Anyone Get Athlete’s Foot?

Capable of being spread through direct or indirect contact, this quiet predator is a threat to any unsuspecting person. Those people who participate in sports are at greater risk for attaining the disease due to greater exposure to the requisite bacteria. Of all the athletes in danger, soccer players top the list of athletes exposed to fungal infection.

Although it is possible that soccer players may contract tinea pedis through direct contact, it is far more likely that this infection spread via skin particles left on towels, shoes or floors. The microscopic fungus that lives on the dead tissue of hair, toenails and outer skin treads on after it is shed, looking for another host to grow upon.

As a unit that must establish an unbreakable bond, a soccer team will find itself sharing equipment, showers or even socks. Thanks to athlete’s foot, these casual encounters can prove harmful and lead to cracking, redness and/or the softening or breaking down of the skin on the foot.

Where Does Athlete’s Foot Live?

This fungal villain grows best in warm, wet environments. For this reason, it is more common that soccer athletes contract the disease from humid places like shoes, socks, swimming pools, locker rooms and the floors of public showers. All of these are places perfect for fostering the growth of this risky infection.

Sporting tight shoes also increases the risk of athlete’s foot—something cleat-wearing soccer stars are all too familiar with. The nature of a soccer player’s form fitting cleats puts them at greater risk for reduced ventilation and moist situations—the perfect habitat for tinea pedis.

The Different Forms of Athlete’s Foot

There are three kinds of athlete’s foot: interdigital, moccasin and vesicular. All three types of athlete’s foot are debilitating and hurtful—especially when it forces a player out of the game. Depending on the severity of the condition, players can expect to sit out anywhere from a game to an entire season.

Interdigital Athlete’s Foot

Interdigital athlete’s foot is characterized by itching, burning and scaling between the toes and is capable of spreading to the sole of the foot. It usually begins between the digits of the foot.

Moccasin Athlete’s Foot

Moccasin athlete’s foot is characterized by a relatively minor dryness or irritation on the sole or heel of the foot. As this form of athlete’s foot progresses, the skin may thicken and crack—extending to the sole and sides of the foot.

Vesicular Athlete’s Foot

Vesicular athlete’s foot is the least common form of this fungal infection. This type is characterized by a sudden outbreak of fluid-filled pustules under the skin. These blisters can appear between the toes, on the heel or on top of the foot.

How is Athlete’s Foot Diagnosed?

To confirm whether or not a soccer player has athlete’s foot, a medical professional is required. To diagnose the infection, a doctor may scrape the skin and examine the scales under a microscope for evidence of fungus. If it is confirmed that the player has contracted the infection, the doctor will prescribe a topical antifungal medication. For more severe instances, an oral medication may be suggested. A special effort by the patient must be made to keep feet clean and dry to prevent the further spread of the condition.

How Can Athlete’s Foot be Prevented?

The best way to avoid the complications of fungal infections is to prevent them before they even begin. Ways to prevent athlete’s foot include wearing bathing shoes in public showering areas—preferably ones that allow easy ventilation. Daily, thorough washing of the feet with soap and water along with complete drying will also support improved hygiene. Several players choose to use a non-irritating foot powder to keep their feet smooth and dry in addition to these other methods.

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