Wrestling is a sport that demands mental and physical strength. Every move and throw presents the risk of an invisible opponent entering the competition. We’re talking about bacteria and viruses that can cause skin infections. The NCAA Injury Surveillance System indicates 15% of all practice time loss in wrestling is due to skin conditions. MRSA, Staph, Impetigo and other skin infections are rampant in high school and college sports due to the amount of skin-to-skin contact between athletes, as well as the exchange of bodily fluids from one wrestler/athlete to another. In a sport like wrestling, skin-to-skin contact is unavoidable and there is little way of knowing whether your competition has a skin infection or is carrying high counts of a bacteria or virus. In light of this fact, it is time that we focus our attention on addressing the body’s largest organ, the skin. While there is a tremendous amount of time, money and effort spent disinfecting surfaces such as the mat, equipment, towels and locker room benches, infections still remain prevalent in the sport. What if we changed our thinking? What if we focused on protecting the wrestler’s most important surface, their skin? Hospital research has demonstrated consistent and optimized hygienic approaches reduces the incidence of infection and lowers transmission. Perhaps then we would be getting in front of the problem with a preventative approach instead of being reactionary. The good news is that skin infections are preventable.


According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there are five ways that MRSA, Staph, Ringworm, Herpes and other bacteria are spread. Any one of the five C’s can spread infection, and wrestling often presents all five C’s.

  1. Crowding
  2. Frequent Skin to Skin Contact
  3. Compromised Skin(cuts, scrapes, small abrasions)
  4. Contaminated Items(sweaty towels, clothes, mats, synthetic turf)
  5. Cleanliness 

If you are a coach, parent or athlete reading this, I’m sure it is easy for you to see that all five of these things have a direct correlation to the skin.

Re-Thinking Skin: The Natural Line of Defense

The body has a critical outer layer of skin called the stratum corneum, which acts as a natural defense against infection and disease. Long thought to be simply dead tissue, the stratum corneum was discovered to have a unique structure that provides several key protective functions.

The two most critical of these functions are:

1) Establishment of a low pH acidic mantle and “zone of inhibition” on the surface of the skin, which allows the growth of healthy, natural bacteria, while preventing the growth of harmful pathogens, including MRSA, staph, ringworm and herpes on the skin’s surface.

2) Maintenance of the critical “permeability barrier”, preventing loss of water from the body, which results in dryness of the skin.

The Importance of pH and Preserving The Skin’s Natural Defense

The average healthy wrestler has a slightly acidic skin pH ranging from 4-6. While most cleaning products wrestlers use such as soap and water and other chemical agents, may be effective in cleaning the skin and surfaces, they also result in significant drying, a raise in the skin pH and damage to the stratum corneum. The compromise of this critical skin layer can be a significant factor in wrestling-acquired infections.

Harmful pathogens such as MRSA, Herpes and Ringworm require a high pH to survive. To make conditions worse, wrestlers often incur mat burns and open wounds due to physical contact. Compromised skin affects the permeability barrier, which can also cause the skin pH to rise, disrupting the natural antimicrobial properties of the skin and increasing the probability for infection to grab hold.

Listed below are some strategies that can be used to prevent skin infections and outbreaks:

  • Keep your fingernails trimmed and clean.
  • Do not share towels or other personal items such as clothing, razors or equipment. Since these items can become contaminated and may spread disease, regularly wash items after each use.
  • Check your skin regularly for any reddened areas, pimples or boils causing pus, swelling or pain.
  • Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.
  • All cuts, abrasions and infections on the skin should be sprayed with Theraworx three times a day, following the “Zone of Inhibition” protocol to employ optimized hygienic approaches to lower the risk of transmission. If bandages are applied, replace daily until healed.
  • If you have a wound that cannot be covered adequately, notify your coach or school nurse.
  • Consider refraining from practice or competitions until the wound can be covered or has completely healed.
  • Tell your school nurse, coach or athletic trainer if you think you have a skin infection. Sports gear, such as helmets, that are non-washable should be wiped down with disinfectants after each use.

In closing, the key to treating skin infections is preventing them from occurring in the first place. The skin is the most important surface; take the appropriate steps to keep it healthy and properly protected this season.


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