How to wrestle rashes and infections on and off the mat

2015-01-21 16:41:31 by Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine, as posted on the blog.

Wikipedia/Creative Commons Wikipedia/Creative Commons

With indoor sports at the peak of season, especially wrestling, common rashes and infections are abundant this time of year. The ones we see time and time again are ringworm, herpes and bacterial infections, such as impetigo and MRSA.

Though they're fairly easy to treat -- many with oral antibiotics -- they are highly contagious and can take athletes out of the game for several days, if not weeks.

Today, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner to discuss this topic. Though it's somewhat controversial, a good wrestler may want to think about suppression therapy this time of year.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Jan. 21, 2015. 

HORNER: Let's talk some sports medicine with our good friend, Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children's Hospital, with us live.

And, Joe, this time of the year we go indoors with a lot of the sports and sometimes we get those infections and such on the wrestling mats.

Dr. Joe Congeni Dr. Joe Congeni

DR. CONGENI: Yeah, you know, the infections that we talk about in wrestling a lot of times are the rashes. Anybody can get these. Any athlete can get these. Um, but they're highly contagious. They're spread pretty easily, Ray. So, that can occur in any sport.

But, this is the time of year where wrestling is reaching its peak - February is when all the bigger matches , and the state meet will be coming up later in February and March - and this is when these become really a big issue.

There are really 4 different rashes that we see a lot, and there is a lot of confusion about them. For the first time, because we put up some of what you and I talk about on the Akron Children's website, if people wanna see these rashes to differentiate them ... we actually will have some color pictures at people who want to look these up.

rashes Click image for larger version.

But, ringworm is the first one, Ray. And, you know, ringworm can occur in anybody, but it occurs in athletes and wrestlers the most. Ringworm is relatively easy to treat.

In the rules for state high school, 4 days of treatment on a by-mouth oral antifungal. You know that ringworm is a fungal infection. It has a fancy medical name, tinea corporis.

And so, when we treat these for 4 days or so, then these kids can get back to wrestling and they're not contagious anymore. But, treating the whole course is about 10 days of treatment for that fungal infection.

Now, the second rash area that we worry about more is herpes. And herpes, called herpes gladiatorum, is a virus and treated by medicines that are a little bit stronger, a little bit more difficult, a little bit longer period of time.

So if a kid comes down with a herpes rash this time of year, it's gonna be about 2 weeks of treatment before they're going to be noncontagious and allowed to wrestle. And so that's a bigger deal, 10 to 14 days of treatment. And if it's in the scalp, it's even longer than that. So, these are ones that the wrestlers don't want to see.

The big point that's still a little controversial, Ray, is do we treat these kids for suppression? The better wrestlers this time of year start actually taking medicines even if they don't have the herpes rash, trying to prevent it from coming on, or if they've had it before to suppress it from coming back.

So one of the big things about herpes and shingles ... is that people take suppressive therapy about this time; medicine to prevent it. That was a little controversial for a while, but I think most people are using that and it's about this time of year that a good wrestler ought to start thinking about that.

And the third one is the bacterial infections. Impetigo's real common in wrestling, pretty easy to treat with antistaph antibiotics -- just easy by-mouth antibiotics.

It kind of oozes on the lower lip and the chin. It looks honey-crusted and that is impetigo. And, it's pretty easy to treat: 48 hours of treatment with antibiotics and we can get kids to where they're not contagious anymore when these crust up.

The other is MRSA -- kinda looks like a spider bite, it has a bump there. We have pictures of all these up on the website.

And, uh, MRSA sometimes needs stronger medicine. Do you know that it's become resistant to our basic antibiotics? We sometimes have to use stronger antibiotics to get rid of MRSA.

It can be in locker rooms in any sport, but if you're going to be on the wrestling mat wrestling against an opponent, these 4 contagious skin rashes are really a big deal.

HORNER: Great stuff. Thank you, Joe, appreciate the time, my friend.

DR. CONGENI: Alright, Ray. Have a great week.

HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children's Hospital. Go to their website and you can see all the layouts of those rashes and infections.

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