Grappling with staphhttp://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2007/11/04/news/top/db77450982331bdc86257388007dec7d.txtGrappling with staph
By Nick Hytrek Journal staff writer
When Dominick Forneris steps onto the wrestling mat during competition this winter, the only thing on his mind will be beating the wrestler standing across from him.
OK, the Sioux City West High senior admitted, he'll also be thinking about his ultimate goal of qualifying for the state meet.
But he certainly won't be worrying about staph infections.
"As a wrestler, you want to focus on the match at hand, not if you're going to get sick," Forneris said.
As stories of the spread of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or MRSA, a deadly strain of staph, appear in the media, wrestlers are taking it all in stride. The nasty bug has become another of the many skin infections wrestlers already take extensive steps to avoid.
Though not necessarily alarmed, coaches and others who oversee the sport are taking notice of MRSA.
"I just had a parents meeting, and it was one of the first things brought up," West High wrestling coach Jon Case said Wednesday. "They wanted to know our policy about keeping the mats clean."
Contact sports such as football and wrestling place athletes at a higher risk of contracting MRSA, which is resistant to methicillin, a common antibiotic used to treat infections. Cuts, scrapes and scratches allow bacteria to enter the skin and lead to an infection. Because of the nearly constant skin-to-skin contact required in the sport, wrestling has drawn a lot of scrutiny.
For years, wrestlers and their coaches have worked hard to prevent the spread of ringworm and various skin infections. They disinfect mats daily. They wash towels and workout clothes after each practice. Before competitions, wrestlers must pass skin checks in which referees and trainers check athletes' bodies for rashes and infected wounds.
"Guys are very aware. We always have been," Morningside College wrestling coach Tim Jager said.
But with a potentially fatal strain of staph making the rounds, many in the sport are taking a closer look at their procedures.
"Certainly there's heightened awareness out there," said Alan Beste, Iowa High School Athletic Association assistant executive director, who has overseen the organization's policies on skin infections for 19 years. "We are talking about MRSA to all our coaches and officials at rules meetings."
The IHSAA has posted information about MRSA on its Web site and sent literature to all Iowa high schools. Beste said the IHSAA, along with the Iowa Department of Public Health, University of Iowa Hospitals and the federal Centers for Disease Control, is developing information for schools on the best way to clean equipment and clothing to prevent the transmission of MRSA.
"It's easy to say wash all your stuff in hot water and bleach," Beste said. "Well, you can't wash all uniforms in hot water because they'll shrink or fade. We're trying to come up with different options for cleaning."
At West High, Case didn't wait for any suggestions. A week ago, he and his wrestlers stripped the school's wrestling room of all mats and padding. Floors, walls, pads and mats were cleaned -- first with an acid-based cleaner to remove dirt and grease, then with a germ-killing solution.
Case has instituted a long list of rules for his program:
-- Wrestlers may not leave their sweaty practice clothes in their lockers overnight.
-- They must wear clean practice clothes every day.
-- They must wipe down their headgear with antibacterial wipes daily.
-- They must wipe their shoes on a towel soaked in an antibacterial solution before they step onto the mat.
-- Parents who want to watch practice must take off their shoes before entering the room.
-- Prior to all varsity competitions, wrestlers must apply a skin spray that adds a layer of protection to the skin, making it easier for bacteria to wash off.
Case, who jokingly said he was a germiphobe even before the MRSA news, isn't taking any chances.
"One of the big things I coach is taking care of yourself on and off the mat, and that includes hygiene," he said.
His rules are now habit to his wrestlers, who are also required to shower before leaving school after practice.
"You just do it. It's standard procedure," junior Alex Hill said.
Are wrestlers worried about contacting MRSA?
"Sadly, no," Forneris said. "It's an overlooked issue."
Both wrestlers said they'll probably pay a little more attention to their bodies, looking for suspicious cuts and scrapes, but they're not going to take any drastic precautions.
"I try not to worry about everything too much," Hill said. "I'm really not that concerned about it."
Nick Hytrek can be reached at 712-293-4226 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What is MRSA?
MRSA is a specific strain of staph infection called Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. Methicillin is the most common antibiotic used to treat staph infections. Strains of staph infection that are resistant to methicillin are called MRSA.
How is the MRSA infection contracted?
Many people carry the bacteria causing MRSA and other staph infections in their nose and/or on their skin. Tiny breaks in the skin from cuts, scrapes and scratches allow the bacteria to enter into the body and can result in infection. Athletes in sports where there is close skin-to-skin contact have higher susceptibility of contracting staph infection. It is also possible to contract the infection from using towels and equipment that are contaminated. It is not possible to get MRSA through the air like a cold.
How do athletes know if they have a MRSA infection?
The only way to know what bacteria is causing any type of infection is for a medical professional to test the drainage from the wound. It is important for athletes to report all skin lesions to a coach or athletic trainer to keep any communicable skin conditions from spreading.
How dangerous is MRSA?
Staph infections most commonly result in skin disorders such as pimple-like lesions (often mistaken for spider bites), boils and impetigo. The infected area is usually red, swollen, painful and may have drainage. Staph infections can cause more serious infections to the bone and bloodstream.
Source: Iowa High School Athletic Association