What is it?
There are many different types of skin conditions that can affect athletes. Causes of skin infections include viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Higher risk sports for skin infections are football and wrestling due the close skin to skin contact. However, not all infections are caused by skin to skin contact. Some may be caused by touching a contaminated surface. Athletes are at higher risk for obtaining a skin infection if they have open wounds, poor hygiene practices, or if they are sharing towels and equipment. It is important to know which type of infection an athlete has because some infections can still be passed to others after the skin is covered.
What are the Symptoms?
It may start with the athlete noticing a new rash or lesion on his or her body. Rashes may be itchy, painful, swollen, or reddish in color. Some infections may start out looking like a bug bite or a pimple. Some athletes may also develop a fever.
When Should I See My Doctor?
Athletes should report any new skin findings to their athletic trainer, coach, or parent. If there is any concern of a skin infection the athlete should be referred to a physician. Depending on the type of infection the athlete may require topical treatment or may need to be placed on a medication. In some instances the lesion may need to be drained in the doctor's office.
How Can I Prevent Skin Infections?
Athletes should always keep their wounds covered. It is important to shower immediately after practices or games and before using a whirlpool or other shared area. Athletes should refrain from sharing towels or razors. Uniforms should be washed and dried after each use.
When Can I Return to Play?
There are guidelines in place by the high school federation and NCAA which state how long treatment is needed before the athlete can return to sport depending on the type of infection. In general the athlete can return once they have been treated and the symptoms have resolved.