MRSA in the Locker Room

One of the settings you’ve probably heard associated with MRSA infection is the sports world. Most athletes, coaches, and trainers now know that you need to take extra care around the locker room to prevent the spread of bacteria. This is especially true in sports that involve close physical contact and/or frequent injuries. Cuts, turf burns, blisters, and other sports-related skin injuries are beautiful places for bacteria like MRSA to grow. Combine these injuries with unwashed gear, dirty locker rooms, and direct physical contact and you’ve just created a “perfect storm” for an MRSA outbreak on your team. Not that this is a new concept – the risk of infectious disease has always been present for athletes (e.g. athlete’s foot, ringworm, lice, etc), its just that now the stakes have been raised significantly.

If you think no one has ever died because of a little sports-related infection, think again. In 2008 the deaths of a Texas high school football player and a Los Angeles high school wrestler were both attributed to MRSA. In the case of the football player, the infection was contracted after an abrasion wound caused by artificial turf. In the case of the wrestler, 17-year-old Noah Armendariz, it took only a couple weeks to progress from aches and fever to coma and death. Also in 2008, University of Tulsa football player Devin Adair died from complications of a Staph infection at the age of 21. These and other horrible stories overshadow another fact, which is that thousands of athletes across North America every year require treatment for some form of Staph/MRSA infection.

While the realities of a prefectly healthy young athlete contracting a life threatening infection are difficult to speak about, it’s great to see that MRSA and bacterial infections are starting to get attention in popular mass media. A recent article in the October 2010 issue of ESPN Magazine highlighted the risk of Staph infection in sports played at the amateur all the way up to professional levels. To drive the point home to readers, ESPN ran a full page color close-up photograph of a nasty looking skin infection to lead off the article….


Shock value?…..absolutely, but a picture like this definitely gets an athlete’s attention in a hurry. What also gets everyone’s attention is an infection that takes out your favorite professional team’s star player in the middle of a season. When big NFL names like Tom Brady and Kellen Winslow wage public battles with Staph infections, the effects trickle down to even the youngest levels of amateur sports. A well publicized study involving the St. Louis Rams NFL football team revealed that during the 2003 season a total of 5 players (9% of the roster) developed MRSA infections originating from artificial turf abrasion wounds.1 Interestingly, the authors also used molecular typing to show that the same strain of MRSA was passed on from the Rams to another football team during a game that season, resulting in an outbreak of infections on that team as well. If the spread of MRSA is this easy at the pro level, you can bet it’s running rampant through high school and college teams as well.

Not that you would ever wish a potentially deadly infection on anyone, but a series of well-publicized incidents at the professional level is probably the best thing to happen for infection control/awareness in sports. Trainers and coaches need to be extra vigilant about hygiene, equipment cleanliness, and injury treatment to avoid being next in a long and continuing string of MRSA sports-related news stories (don’t believe me?….just Google it). Let’s hope it doesn’t take a high-profile death from Staph/MRSA infection to really clean up the locker room when it comes to the spread of bacteria…

1 Kazakova SV et. al (2005) A clone of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among professional football players. New England Journal of Medicine 352(5): 468-475.

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One Response to “MRSA in the Locker Room”

  1. Dong Hartsook says:

    Yeast named Pityrosporum Orbiculare or Malassezia Furfur is the main cause of this condition. It is lipophilic which means fats are its vulnerability. This provides you the reason of infestation in a specific area like chest, arms and back. As these parts have huge number of sebaceous oily glands. The yeast remains dormant in our skin and with specific changes in environment like warm weather it reacts to it accordingly. When the skin is exposed to excess heat it causes the skin to tan which is affected by the fungus. The warm weather aggravates this problem further.*

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