Rethink your Decision to Play Contact Sports

staph2Ashley Hiltebeitel (12:00 Micro) found another summary of microbes in the news from Science Daily. This one details the occurrence of MRSA in student athletes. This should come as no surprise to BIO230 students, who have been the subjects of scientific experiments looking at Staphylococcus aureus on YCP students in the past–click through to see how much Staphylococcus is in Nurses who have already gone through this class. Here is Ashley’s summary:

Even without showing signs and symptoms of of an infection, IDWeek2014 is presenting a study that Staphyloccocus aureus, more commonly known as MRSA, can be carried within college athletes who play contact sports such as football and soccer. This study shows that carrying the infection without showing symptoms puts them at a higher risk to obtain infection or spreading it to their peers or teammates. This disease can cause a serious infection which could lead to death. IDWeek2014 is the first to study athletes in college who are not part of a larger MRSA outbreak.

While carrying this microorganism in their noses and throats, contact athletes are twice as likely to be colonized with MRSA than people who do not play contact sports such as tennis and golf. To show the extreme difference, the two year long study performed by IDWeek2014 showed an 8 to 31 percent range of colonization of MRSA in those who play football, soccer, or other contact sports compared to 0 to 23 percent of those athletes who do not contact their opponent.

staphNatalia Jimenez-Truque, PhD, MSCI, research instructor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn. states that even without the full scale of the outbreak, a substantial number of athletes are being colonized with the harmful bacteria. She is convinced that the spread of the disease can be decreased within sports teams by reminding athletes to have good hygiene which includes more hand washing and not sharing personal items in the locker rooms such as towels, soaps, and razors.

The study being presented by IDWeek2014 researched the time it takes for Staphylococcus aureus to be colonized within an athlete. 377 male and female Vanderbilt University varsity athletes were observed. This group included 14 different sports. The contact sports observed were football, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, while the non-contact sports included baseball, cross country, and golf. The number of participants for the contact sports were 224 and the the number for the non-contact sports were 153. Monthly nasal and throat swabs occurred over two academic years for each athlete. MRSA was found to be acquired more quickly and longer in contact athletes over non-contact athletes.

Skin and soft tissue infections are the result of MRSA. The infections usually heal on their own or can be easily treated. Pneumonia and infections of the blood, heart, bone, joints, and central nervous system can come from the invasive form of MRSA and kill about 18,000 people every year. This is harder to treat than the skin and soft tissue infections because doctors use powerful antibiotics delivered through an I.V.

When an athlete who plays a contact sport has cuts and scrapes on their body, they have a higher risk of getting colonized or infected with MRSA. Researchers suggest that this can be avoided by covering open wounds, regularly washings hands, showering after all practice and games, and not sharing personal items as mentioned before. They also suggest that athletes with scratches and cut should not be allowed to practice or play in games. MRSA is often spread person to person because researchers found little staph in a clean athletic environment.

In conclusion, Jimenez-Truque states that, “Staph is a problematic germ for us — always has been, always will be — and we need to do all we can to reduce the risk of infection in those at highest risk, such as college athletes.”

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on October 22, 2014, in Danger danger danger!, Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Rethink your Decision to Play Contact Sports.

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