Treatment and Prevention of Skin Infections in Wrestlers

Treatment and Prevention of Skin Infections in Wrestlers
Tamara Spann, ATC
Hughston Athletic Training Fellowship

The sport of wrestling is very tactile. With every move and every throw comes the risk of obtaining skin infections. The danger of skin infections is a growing concern among wrestlers, parents, coaches, and officials. Prevention and early diagnosis is very important.

One of the most important things to remember is proper hygiene. Athletes are encouraged to shower immediately after wrestling practice or competition. When showering, it is important to use a mesh scrub with antibacterial soap. This aids in removing any unwanted bacteria and infections the athlete might have picked up during skin to skin contact1. Another important prevention technique is to thoroughly clean and disinfect all wrestling mats as well as equipment, including all uniforms and towels1, after every use. Athletes should also be discouraged from sharing such items as unwashed towels and uniforms even shoes and headgear. Following proper hygiene practices and thorough disinfection techniques can greatly decrease the risk of obtaining skin infections among wrestlers.

When prevention is not enough it is important to get treatment of skin infections at the first sign of the infection. The key to this is to know what to look for. Some common types of skin infections found in wrestling include ring worm, herpes simplex, staphylococcus infection (staph infection), and impetigo.

The most common infection found in wrestling is Tinea Corporis, also know as ring worm. Tinea Corporis is actually a fungal infection and not a worm, as the name implies. This skin infection appears red and scaly in a ring formation with a clear center. Ring worm is highly contagious and can develop in many different areas of the body including the feet (Athletes foot), the groin (jock itch), face or trunk (ring worm), the scalp, and in the nail beds2. The lesions may or may not itch. If ring worm is suspected it is very important to begin treatment immediately. Treatments include topical antifungal creams or oral antifungal medication. Treatment should be applied twice daily for 1-4 weeks. Athletes may return to competition after 3 days of topical treatment use2. Lesions should be covered during practice and competition and all equipment and towels should be washed daily.

Herpes simplex is another common infection and, just as ring worm, is an extremely contagious virus. Herpes is a viral infection and often appears as a fever blister, genital herpes, or herpes gladiatorum, which can be found on the face or the trunk of the body2. It enters the body through a break in the skin such ad a cut or mat burn. Herpes present itself as a fluid filled blister on top of red skin. Once the blister breaks open it appears with a crusty painful scab2, 3. There is no cure for the herpes virus but treatments include Valtrex and prophylactic medications. Wrestling guidelines state that wrestlers may not participate in practice or competition until they are asymptomatic, without a new blister for 3 days, or if the athlete has taken medication for at least 5 days2, 3.

A growing infection that has been spreading through out high school and college locker rooms more recently is staphylococcus infection or staph infection4. A recent problem that doctors have found with staph is that some strands have become resistant to antibiotic treatment; this is known as Methicillian Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)2, 4, 5. What was once confined to hospitals is now creeping into high school and college locker rooms around the country. Staph infection is most commonly spread though skin to skin contact but can also be transmitted through sports equipment, work out areas, and unwashed towels and uniforms2, 4. It first appears as a pimple or ant bite. The wound site will quickly grow to a painful boil that if not cared for will eventually bust open producing a bloody puss like substance that is highly contagious2. Staph is very serious and if not treated in the early stages may require hospitalization4. It is vital that weight rooms, wrestling rooms, and athletic training rooms be thoroughly sanitized if there is any suspicion of staph infection to prevent further spread2, 5. Athletes can not be permitted to engage in activity until they have been declared infection free by a doctor2.

Impetigo is yet another common infection found in wrestlers. It is a highly contagious bacterial infection obtained through broken skin such as cuts and scraps. There are two types of impetigo; bullous and nonbullous2. Bullous impetigo appears as damp red skin that resembles a burn that develops into a blister, filled with a clear or yellow fluid. Nonbullous impetigo, which is the more commonly seen, presents with a yellow honey colored crust over a red base2. Impetigo is most commonly found on the face, arms, legs, and trunk. Treatment consists of a topical antibiotic such as bactroban. This should be applied to the affected area three times per day for ten days or until the infection is gone2. For large areas of infection an oral medication can be taken. Athletes with impetigo infections may not participate until all blisters and lesion are completely cleared2.

The most important things to remember are to practice proper hygiene immediately after every practice or competition using hot water and antibacterial soap, keeping practice areas including weight rooms and equipment properly disinfected, and never to share used towels, equipment, and uniforms with out proper washing. It is always easier to prevent infections from occurring than it is to contract and then treat them.


  1. Pennsylvania wrestling magazine: Preventing skin infections, Available at: Accessed December 10, 2006.
  2. Cuppett M, Walsh K: General medical conditions in the athlete, Philadelphia, 2005, Mosbey.
  3. Lawton R: Skin diseases in wrestling, March 6 1999. Available at: Accessed December 10, 2006.
  4. (P. Higgs [], email, November 23, 2006)
  5. Kowalski T J, Berbari EF, Osmon DR, MD: Epidemiology, treatment, and prevention of community-acquired methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infections. Mayo foundation Med Ed Research. 2005; 80(9):1201-1208

Tamara Spann, ATC, is a first year graduate student and recipient of the Hughston Athletic Training Fellowship in Columbus, Georgia. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Sports Medicine/Athletic Training from the University of South Florida.

Tamara is an active member of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), Southeast Athletic Training Association (SEATA), and the Athletic Training Association of Florida (ATAF).

Currently, she serves as the Head Athletic Trainer at Carver High School, Columbus, Georgia.