Why Does MRSA Spread Easily Among Athletes?

Although Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections were once rare and predominantly related to exposures in hospital or healthcare settings, infections in daily community settings like athletic facilities, gyms, and health clubs are increasing. 

Staphylococcus aureus (staph) infections are caused by bacteria found on the skin or in nasal passages in about one-third of the human population. However, about two in every 100 people carry MRSA, the staph strain that is incredibly hard to treat and resistant to (cannot be killed by) many antibiotics. This superbug can cause life-threatening pneumonia (lung infection) and bloodstream infections, leading to sepsis and death. 

MRSA infections are highly contagious and easily spread through contaminated surfaces, shared equipment, and direct physical contact with an infected person. This is a significant cause for concern for athletes who participate in high-performance contact sports––where MRSA is striking at an alarming rate with dire consequences. 

In 2003, Ricky Lannetti, a Division III all-American wide receiver at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania, tragically died when his MRSA infection resulted in a deadly case of pneumonia. 

Former college basketball star Mike Gansey contracted a life-threatening MRSA infection in 2006, and his plans for the NBA were sidelined. Gansey suffered chronic fatigue, swelling, and intense pain. He also lost 30 pounds over the course of two months. 

In 2015, NFL superstar Daniel Fells of the New York Giants battled a near-fatal MRSA infection and spent several tense weeks in a hospital. It took seven surgeries to get Fells’ infection under control. At one point, doctors informed him that amputation might be required. Soon after recovering, Fells retired from the NFL. 

Several prominent NBA players have suffered staph infections in recent years, including former pros like Paul Pierce and Drew Gooden. 

While the public has become much more aware of this microbial menace, there is still a long fight in the battle against MRSA. 

How is MRSA Spread in Athletic Facilities? 

MRSA is usually spread in the community by contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces. Athletes are often exposed to MRSA bacteria when: 

  • Touching any surface, from training equipment to basketballs, footballs, and weights, that’s contaminated with MRSA. 
  • Sharing personal items, such as towels, soap, or razors, with someone who has an active MRSA infection. 
  • Having repeated skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MRSA. 

Athletes are particularly susceptible to MRSA infections when they have uncovered cuts, abrasions, or other wounds that may allow MRSA to enter the body and cause devastating infections.

Related: Tips to Avoid Skin Infections at the Gym

What are the Symptoms of MRSA Infection?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the symptoms of a MRSA infection depend on the part of the body that is infected. For instance, individuals with MRSA skin infections often experience swelling, redness, warmth, and pain in infected skin areas. MRSA infections often start at a place where the skin is already visibly broken, such as with a cut or sore. Infections may also occur in places that are usually covered by hair. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you think you may have a MRSA infection. Getting medical care as soon as possible makes it less likely that an infection will become serious. 

Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as an infected area on the skin that might be: 

  • Red
  • Swollen
  • Painful 
  • Warm or hot to the touch
  • Rash
  • Full of pus or other drainages
  • Accompanied by a fever, chills, and body aches  

The early symptoms of MRSA are so benign that infected people often don’t seek medical care until it has already spread. It’s essential to monitor even seemingly insignificant skin abnormalities and seek medical attention at the first sign that a boil or welt seems to be worsening. 

How Can MRSA Be Prevented in Athletic Facilities? 

MRSA spreads easily in athletic environments such as locker rooms, training facilities, courts, and gyms because of shared equipment and skin-to-skin contact. The best way to prevent sports-related MRSA infections is to stop them from occurring in the first place. 

Infection prevention and control practices cannot be overstated in the battle against superbugs like MRSA. Using a comprehensive approach to prevent infections is critical. An effective infection prevention strategy includes elements such as consistent handwashing, thorough cleaning, and disinfection practices. 

Related: The Importance of Disinfection in the Battle Against MRSA 

What Disinfectant Kills MRSA?

Most standard cleaning and disinfection products are not strong enough to kill MRSA. Cleaning products with harsh chemicals can contribute to antibiotic resistance and weaken immune defenses. Therefore, it’s vital to use an EPA-approved product for safe and effective cleaning and disinfection. 

Vital Oxide has been proven effective against MRSA and is registered with the EPA for use against MRSA, with a contact time of 10 minutes. 

How to Kill MRSA on Surfaces with Vital Oxide 

Vital Oxide is unique because it is highly effective against a range of pathogens while being colorless, odorless, and free from harsh chemicals, nauseous fumes, and harmful residues. 

Vital Oxide has been used to combat MRSA and other pathogens, including most recently SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19), in athletic facilities, gyms, training facilities, and more worldwide.  

When cleaning and disinfecting, focus on surfaces that frequently contact people’s bare skin, including high-touch points and any shared equipment. In particular, clean and disinfect any surfaces with Vital Oxide that could come into contact with uncovered cuts, wounds, or boils. 

In addition to cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, actions like showering after working out, frequent handwashing, and keeping wounds clean and bandaged can prevent MRSA from taking hold. 

At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary disinfectant powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We're here to help.
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