Proper Hygiene for the Wrestler and Combat Athlete
Guidelines to Minimize Infectious Diseases
— National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee
Preparation for competition in any sport requires proper training and practice. Whether it means preparing your body or maintaining your equipment, proper preparation is necessary. Keeping your body and equipment clean is part of that process. Infectious diseases do propagate and are easily transmitted in the sports environment. Contact sports and those with substantial amounts of equipment are more prone than others, but needless to say, proper hygiene is necessary for all athletes to reduce the potential of transmitting these agents. The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee realizes these issues and has helped establish guidelines to educate the sporting and medical community about their presence and means to reduce transmission of sports-related infectious diseases.
Proper Hygienic Practices:
1. Shower immediately after each practice or competition. Use your own
bottled soap and towel and don’t share them with others, let alone other
toiletries. Studies have shown that transmission of infectious diseases can occur when these items are shared with other athletes.
2. Don’t share water bottles. Viruses and bacterial infections can be easily transmitted via a shared container.
3. Don’t perform cosmetic shaving. Needless shaving of the chest or legs or genital areas has been associated with increased outbreaks of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcal aureus (MRSA). Consider cropping or closely trimming if necessary.
4. Wash equipment on a routine basis including workout clothing after each practice. Consider washing smaller pads (for knees or elbows) on a weekly basis or if soiled with contaminated material, each day. Larger pads, such as those in Hockey or Football, should be disinfected (1:100 solution of household bleach and water) on a routine basis. Disinfect more frequently if the uniforms are soiled with blood or bodily fluids. Commercial equipment utilizing detergents or ozone for decontamination could also be considered.
5. Don’t let abrasions or open sores go without evaluation by your coach or Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC). Be sure to keep them clean and covered with proper dressings.
6. Inform your coach or ATC about any suspicious lesion at the beginning of practice. Consider withdrawal from training or competition until the lesion is evaluated by your Health Care Provider (HCP). If it is considered infectious, wait to return to competition until it has cleared by your HCP. Also have other teammates evaluated for such lesions and cared for in the same manner.
7. Don’t use a whirlpool or cold tub with any open wounds, scrapes or
8. Shower before using whirlpools or common tubs.
A footnote from Defense Soap: We feel that the NFHS did an admirable job preparing these tips, however, we also feel that bar soap, especially medicated bar soap, can be used following practice or workouts. Bar soap should be stored in soap dishes or cases and should avoid contact with shower floors or common soap trays. It is a common belief that bacteria or fungus can grow on bar soap. This may be the case with some soaps however this is not the case with Defense Soap. Our study here illustrates how our soap resisted bacterial and fungal growth for a period of 7-10 days. Also, showering before entering whirlpools or common tubs needs to be expanded upon. Showering depletes your normal skin flora. This skin flora is provided by nature to protect you from invading microbes. Striping the host of its flora will undoubtedly put the host at risk of infection. We are not suggesting that an athlete steps off the mat and straight into a whirlpool or cold tub. We are suggesting that a proper protocol be set up with a Certified Athletic Trainer that understands the balance between skin flora and infectious disease.