by Brad Yeargin, MEd ATC CES, Regional Athletic Training Coordinator (SC)
Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, is a type of bacteria with several different strains.
MRSA is spread easily among athletes because of repeat skin-to-skin contact, frequent breaks or cuts in the skin, sharing items that come in direct skin contact, and inadequate hygiene.
Athletes at the highest risk for MRSA are those in high physical contact sports such as wrestling, football or rugby. But soccer, basketball, field hockey, volleyball, rowing and baseball participants also have reported MRSA infections.
- These infections can develop around open wounds or even closed skin. Red, swollen, painful bumps appear in the area and may release bloody pus.
- The area around the bump or lesion may be hard and painful. It often presents like a spider bite or a boil, and can be missed if not diagnosed correctly. Unless you actually saw the spider bite you, it is best to have a physician look at the skin for possible infection .
- MRSA is contagious and can be spread to others, even if they are not showing any symptoms. This can occur during skin-to-skin contact, by touching the same surfaces, or by sharing the same equipment.
Physicians will prescribe specialized antibiotics and may need to drain the abscess in order to clear the infection. It is important to wash hands, keep open wounds clean and covered, and never share equipment or items that contact bare skin.
Suspected MRSA infections should be referred to a physician for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, the infection can burrow deeper, spreading into muscle and bone. In severe cases, this could lead to loss of limb or possibly death.
Because MRSA is highly contagious, anyone participating in organized sports should follow prevention methods and be aware of the signs of skin infection.