Why Athletes need ATs – Hygiene

1 Feb

Why do athletes or athletic departments or teams need the services of an athletic trainer?  This will be a series of articles attempting to examine the unique and important roles that athletic trainers play in the lives of the people that they care for.

Part 6 – Hygiene

To most athletes, skin infections are not a top priority.  At the youngest levels (Middle School and Jr. Varsity), athletes rarely shower after practice and games and most wear the same practice gear several days in a row.  Making matters worse, athletes often throw their sweaty gear into their dark lockers and gym bags.  These habits aren’t because these athletes are disgusting,  it is often because they are completely rushed and don’t plan ahead.  Since hygiene is a low priority and athletes today don’t plan ahead to take showers or have clean practice gear, skin infections start showing up on teams.  Another issue is often the cleanliness of the hydration stations.  Keeping the water coolers, water bottles, etc. clean and dry can easily be overlooked by a busy coach.

MRSA, ringworm, herpes simplex 1, impetigo, common colds and the flu are regularly in the news as teams struggle to deal with an outbreak.  I have heard of teams that have forfeited games and seasons due to infectious outbreaks.  In 2009, an entire athletic league in Minnesota suspended wrestling for a few weeks due to an outbreak of Herpes Gladitorium.  Much of these outbreaks can be prevented in the first place with hygiene education and awareness.  At my work, I am able to speak with all the parents at the beginning of the athletic season.  Personal hygiene is a topic that I cover with them.  I do the same presentation to our coaches at the coaches meeting before the season starts.  I present the same information to the athletes and give them a handout to stress the importance of personal hygiene.  In my training room and in most training rooms in the area, there are posters with graphic pictures of various infections and with information on how to prevent those infections from occurring.

Does this program prevent all infections? No, of course not, but the program has prevented any of our teams from having to forfeit games or suspend play for part of a season.  Education along with daily observance and accountability to the AT is an effective program.

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