Community Acquired Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus in Athletes and the Physically Active

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Staphylococcus aureus, often referred to as "staph", are bacteria carried on the skin or in the nose of 25 to 35 percent of healthy people. This is known as colonization. It occurs when the staph bacteria are present on or in the body without causing illness. Infection occurs when the staph bacteria causes disease in the person.

In the past, most serious staph bacterial infections were treated with an antibiotic related to penicillin. In recent years, treatment of these infections has become more difficult because staph bacteria have become resistant to various antibiotics, including the commonly used penicillin related antibiotics. These resistant bacteria are called methicillin resistant staphylococcus or MRSA. According to the CDC, one percent of the population is colonized with MRSA.

MRSA infections usually develop in hospitalized patients. However, MRSA rates have increased recently in persons outside of health care facilities, affecting athletes and the physically active. They can be found in sports settings, performing arts, corporations, military training facilities, schools, fitness centers, and health clinics.

Staph or MRSA infections develop from person-to-person contact, shared towels, soaps, improperly cleaned whirlpools and sports equipment. Such infections usually appear first as pimples, pustules and boils. Some can be red, swollen, painful and/or have pus or other drainage. The pustules may be confused with insect bites in early states. The infections may also be associated with previous existing turf burns or abrasions. Without proper referral and care, more serious infections may cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections or surgical wound infections. Maintaining good hygiene and avoiding contact with drainage from skin lesions are the best methods for preventing MRSA infections.

Precautions that can be taken:

  • Keep hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer routinely.
  • Encourage immediate showering following activity.
  • Avoid whirlpools or common tubs. Individuals with open wounds, scrapes or scratches can easily infect others in this environment.
  • Avoid sharing towels, razors, and daily athletic gear.
  • Properly wash athletic gear and towels after each use.
  • Maintain clean facilities and equipment.
  • Inform or refer to appropriate health care personnel for all active skin lesions and lesions that do not respond to initial therapy.
  • Administer or seek proper first aid after an injury resulting in a lacerations or abrasions.
  • Care and cover skin lesions, lacerations, or abrasions appropriately before participation in activities.

For more information link to:
Germ-Stopper Web site

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infections Among Competitive Sports Participants --- Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles County, 2000-2003