Methicilline Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, MRSA, is an extremely contagious staph infection that does not respond to common antibiotics.
Outbreaks of MRSA in sports are becoming more common. Outbreaks are most common in sports where there is a lot of contact between participants, there is a lot of equipment and there is a high likelihood of exposure to a wound. The most common sports to have MRSA outbreaks are football, wrestling, rugby, and soccer. The most common way that MRSA is transmitted is through an open wound, such as a superficial abrasion, or from contact with a MRSA carrier. Other methods of transmission include poor hand washing, poor personal hygiene, not showering after workouts, sharing personal items such as razors, towels, clothing, or a failure to properly clean and disinfect exercise and training equipment.
Most infections initially present as folliculitis or other skin infection, the person may have what appears to be an infected pimple or an insect bite. The area may become red, warm, painful, and may swell. The person may have pain and swelling in a joint in the area of infection. This infection may progress to form an abscess or may progress to a more severe problem like endocarditis, osteomyelitis, organ failure, or death due to sepsis. This progression can occur rapidly.
Treatment includes drainage of the abscess and administration of the appropriate antibiotics. The wound should be cultured to determine specific organism or strain of MRSA so that the appropriate antibiotic is administered. If an athlete is known to have MRSA, they should be removed from contact with other athletes until an antibiotic is administered and the risk of transmission is reduced or eliminated. Once antibiotics are administered and the infection is under control, the athlete can return to sports with the wound covered with a protective dressing.
Prevention is key to reducing the risk of an outbreak between participants in the sporting environment. Wounds should be covered with protective bandaging to prevent transmission to or from that athlete. Athletes should shower after all sports participation where contact occurs. All equipment should be thoroughly washed and disinfected. Liquid soap should be used in showers rather than bar soap. Athletes should be discouraged from sharing towels, razors, or other hygienic products. Also don’t share personal sporting equipment such as gloves. Medical personnel should continue to use universal precautions when managing wounds and treatment surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned before and after treating an athlete.