As the fall season of sports winds down, the winter sports season will soon be here. That means the return of high school wrestling season. As a sports medicine doctor, we often get the job of doing “skin checks” for wrestling meets along with the athletic trainer. This means checking the skin all over for any signs of infection or fungus that could easily be transmitted to other wrestlers and equipment. It is an important job because skin infections can travel from wrestler to wrestler very easily with the whole team quickly becoming infected. This is something that no trainer, parent or athlete wants to happen.
Why do wrestlers get rashes more often than in other sports? They have a lot more skin-to-skin contact than other sports! During a match they are almost constantly in contact with another player’s skin and the mats. They might wrestle several different people in tournaments increasing exposure even more.
Common Wrestling Skin Infections
What are some common infections that wrestlers often get? Two of the most common are ringworm and herpes. Ringworm is a fungus (the fancy name is tinea corporis if it is on your body, tinea capitis if it is on your head) that creates a scaly, circle-shaped rash. It requires a cream applied a few times a day if it is on your body or a medicine by mouth if it is on your head. Herpes is a virus—along the same lines as what causes cold sores. It creates vesicles (fluid-filled spots) that break open and cause red areas on the skin. The first time an athlete gets it, it can cause fevers and flu-like symptoms. It requires a medicine by mouth and can keep coming back year after year.
Prevention of Skin Infections
Can these rashes be prevented? There are definitely many things that can be done on both an individual and a team level to keep these wrestlers healthy and out on the mats.
- Good hygiene! Wrestlers should ideally shower after each practice or meet. Clothes should also be washed after each practice or meet as well.
- No sharing! Wrestlers should never share towels, razors and soap in the showers. This allows for a fast spread of germs.
- Keep equipment clean: Mats should be cleaned and disinfected before and after use
- When in doubt, check it out: Any area of concern should be checked out by a doctor or trainer ASAP to ensure early detection and treatment.
Following these guidelines can keep your wrestler healthy and out on the mat. Covering or avoiding going to the doctor can sometimes lead to long term consequences in the case of certain rashes. Better to get it checked out and treated early.