Wrestlers Face High Risk of Skin Infections

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

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Kurt Ashack
Fourth year medical student at Michigan State University, Michigan
Kyle Burton
University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Orlando, Florida

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Skin infections associated with high school athletics have been reported in literature since the late 20th century and while many skin infections are relatively minor, others can cause serious morbidity. Prior reports on skin infections among high school athletes have focused on specific sports or have evaluated relatively small numbers of athletes. No prior report has evaluated skin infections in a large national sample of United States (US) high school athletes across multiple sports.

During the study period, 474 skin infections were reported among 20,858,781 athlete exposures (AE); a rate of 2.27 infections per 100,000 AE. The largest number of skin infections occurred in wrestlers (73.6%), followed by boys’ football (17.9%) and boys’ basketball (1.9%). Baseball and swimming had much fewer cases. The most common infections were bacterial (60.6%), tinea (28.4%) and herpetic (5.2%) infections. Body parts most often affected were the head/face (25.3%), forearm (12.7%) and upper arm (8%). The average time for return to play was 3-6 days (45.5%). It was also interesting to note how many more infections there were in boys than girls. Girls’ volleyball had the most of girls’ sports, but all girl reports did not near the boy’s number.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: Based on our findings future preventative guidelines for high school sports-related skin infections could focus on wrestling and the potential sources of bacterial infections in that sport such as wrestling mats, headgear, and individual hygiene. Is should be emphasized that showering after competition is a great way to decrease skin infections based on past studies.

We hope an understanding of the epidemiology of sports-related skin infections will promote awareness and drive prevention efforts.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future studies could consider implementing new preventative guidelines that focus on bacterial infections in sports that involve heavy contact such as wrestling. Through these studies an understanding of which methods are the most effective to be implemented to reduce skin infections among high school athletes can be achieved. For example, a study looking at mandatory showering after practices or use of antibacterial wipes for wrestling headgear before or after each practice and how this effects skin infection rates could be useful.

Medical Research: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: High school sports-related skin infections resulting in time loss from competition and/or practice were reported from a large national sample of US high schools from the 2009-2010 through 2013-2014 academic years. Data was reported via RIO (Reporting Information Online) by National Athletic Trainers’ Association affiliated athletic trainers.


Kurt A. Ashack, Kyle A. Burton, Teresa R. Johnson, Dustin W. Currie, R. Dawn Comstock, Robert P. Dellavalle. Skin infections among US high school athletes: A national survey. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2015.10.042

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Kurt Ashack and, & Kyle Burton (2016). Wrestlers Face High Risk of Skin Infections

Last Updated on February 6, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD