As we begin a new year, the end of the GHSA wrestling season also approaches. This week, wrestlers from all over the state of Georgia will “meet” up at the Gwinnett Arena to determine who the best of the best is. Along with the occasional bloody nose and lacerated eyebrow, wrestlers also have to be conscious of their skin. There are many common skin disorders that surround contact sports, and with the upcoming GHSA State Wrestling Championship, I thought it might be helpful to list a few of them here. As a partner in Sports Medicine for the GHSA, Dr. Levengood and his staff will be providing on-site medical coverage for the tournament and will also take part in the mandatory skin checks that all wrestlers must submit to and pass before being eligible to compete. While it is the responsibility of the athletes’ parents and coaches to be aware and educated on skin disorders and communicable diseases, it ultimately falls onto the shoulders of the evaluating physician of the event (i.e. Dr. Levengood).
Here are some common skin disorders and the signs* and symptoms* to be aware of or look for if you or someone you love competes in any contact sport:
Herpes Gladiatorum: skin disease caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1; spread by skin to skin contact; most commonly found on the head/neck
Signs: clusters of small blisters (sometimes fluid-filled) like those seen with chickenpox
Symptoms: fever, sore throat, headache
In order to be cleared for competition, the physician covering the event must determine that the athlete is fever free, cannot have had any new blisters within 3 days of clearance, any old blisters must be crusted over, and the athlete must be on medication for at least 5 days before the event.
Staph Infection (Impetigo, Folliculitis, MRSA)
Impetigo: bacterial skin infection caused by strep/staphylo-coccus; spread by close contact or sharing towels, sheets, etc; can also spread by scratching; most commonly found around the nose and mouth
Signs/Symptoms: sores begin as small red spots and change to blisters that eventually open; sores often ooze fluid or look crusted over (may be painful/itchy)
Folliculitis: bacterial skin infection caused by strep/staphylo-coccus; inflammation of one/more of the hair follicles; occurs with close personal contact; typically occur on neck, axilla, or groin area
Signs/Symptoms: rash; pimples or pustules around hair follicle; may crust over; itchy skin
MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus): bacteria that causes infections in other parts of the body; tougher to treat because it’s resistant to most commonly used antibiotics; can be transmitted by skin-skin contact
Signs: red, swollen painful abscess; may be puss-filled; often mistaken for an insect bite or pimple; fever
Symptoms: cough, shortness of breath, chills
For all of the above Staph infections, in order for an athlete to be cleared for competition, the physician covering the event must determine that the athlete has been on a course of antibiotics for at least 3 days and has had no new sores for at least 2 days prior to competition. All lesions must be covered with bandages that will not fall off during competition from sweat or contact.
These are just some of the common skin infections that are associated with contact sports. It is important for parents/coaches to become familiar with many different types of skin disorders to properly identify lesions and know when medical intervention is necessary. Prevention is the best way to protect yourself from any infection, viral or bacterial. Always wash your hands with soap and water after any contact with possible contaminated surfaces (i.e. other people, using the bathroom, etc). In terms of athletics, always be sure to wash your athletic equipment, make sure proper cleaning techniques are used on community equipment (benches, machines, mats, tables) and identify any skin lesions/abnormalities as soon as you can so that treatment can take place as soon as possible.
*Sign: what is objectively discovered during a physical examination (elevated blood pressure)
*Symptom: experienced and reported by the patient (nausea, headache)