Preventing Skin ConditionsJoin NWCA

Preventing Skin Conditions

“While we cannot prevent all contagious skin infections, we can take precautionary measures to greatly decrease the chance of becoming infected.” – Michael Milligan, M.D., Andrews Institute

Fact Check: Preventing Skin Conditions

  •  Injury surveillance data supplied by both the NCAA and National Federation of State High School Associations indicates that skin condition is typically the second or third most reported “adverse event” in wrestling. (Think of an “adverse event” as an injury. These skin conditions lead to lost practice and competition time).
  • However, skin conditions are one of the easiest “injuries” to avoid (as compared to sprains, strains, etc.) as long as you, your wrestlers, and their parents follow some very simple protocol.

Performing Skin Checks

  • Make sure to perform daily skin checks prior to all practices and competitions on yourself. Hold teammates accountable for checking their skin for abnormalities.
  • Make sure to report any skin abnormalities on yourself or a teammate to an athletic trainer or physician immediately. The sooner you report, the quicker you can return to the mat.


“The most effective way to prevent skin conditions is for everyone to be held accountable in the process of prevention. It is important for everyone to be help responsible that is involved in the wrestling program to do things to prevent skin conditions.” – Michael Milligan, M.D., Andrews Institute

Fact Check: Performing Skin Check

  • 70% of skin infections in wrestling occur on the head, neck, or face, however, all skin infections should receive an evaluation.
  • Infections can also spread to the eyes so being cautious with infections on the head, neck, and face. As much as possible avoid touching your eyes during day-to-day activities.
  • If you wear contact lenses, be sure to clean your hands well with soap and water before handling contact lenses.

Personal Hygiene

  • Make sure to shower before and immediately after each practice and competition with skin disease prevention soap. The sooner you shower after finishing practice or competition the better. If possible use the gym locker room to shower when you are done rather than waiting until you get home. Also, make sure to sanitize headgear and other equipment daily with recommended cleaning agents.
  • As a backup plan, if a shower is not available, wipe yourself down with antimicrobial wipes, foam, and sprays before and after competition and practices.
  • Razors should be one time use to limit the possibility of speading infectious organisms.

Fact Check: Personal Hygiene

  • Studies have shown 8% of athletes do not shower until they get home. The longer an athlete waits to shower the longer the possible infectious organisms are on the skin and the more likely the athlete becomes infected.
  • Liquid soap is favored over bar soap to reduce rates of infection transmission.
  • Hand washing is better than hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizer should be used as a backup if soap and water are not available.


Equipment Cleaning

  • All clothing and apparel should be washed after each practice and competition including but not limited to: singlets, socks, undershirts, headgear, etc.
  • Clean mats after every use. Make sure to clean the mats with a10% bleach or an antimicrobial cleaner after every use.
  • Allow equipment to fully dry before storing it.
  • Recommended cleaning agents include 10% bleach solutions, and antimicrobial cleaners and soaps. Antimicrobial cleaners are more effective than antibacterial cleaners.
  • Look for quality products that meet these criteria to achieve the recommended cleaning needs.


Create a Plan

A cleaning plan should be put in place for all team equipment.

  1. A cleaning regimen should be written out and available for any and all people that may be involved in equipment cleaning. This includes but is not limited to coaches, managers, athletes, janitorial staff, etc.
  2. Cleaning sessions should be documented to assure they have been completed.
  3. Clean all surfaces of equipment, for example, clean both sides of the mats used.
  4. Allow the equipment to fully dry before storing it.


Antiviral Medication Protocol

  • Viral infections are common in wrestling but are currently the only type of infection that may be prevented by a medication regimen.
  • Infected wrestlers are up to 2.4 times more likely to have an outbreak if not on a prophylaxis protocol.
  • The protocol for this would include valacyclovir 1GM/day.
  • Overall studies have shown use of Valacyclovir prophylactically can reduce outbreaks up to 83%. One study was able to prove a decrease the rate of infection by 89.5% in wrestlers.



  • Andrews Institute: Top five ways to prevent skin conditions Infographic (PDF)
    (Infographic on ways to prevent skin conditions)
  • An Athlete’s Guide to Prevent the Spread of Bacteria
    (Printable tri-fold brochure with information adapted from CDCP, an athlete’s guide to prevent the spread of bacteria, from the NY Dept of Health)
  • Skin Infection Webinar – Link
    (A resource dedicated to helping coaches to understand the steps necessary to decrease skin infections.)
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Cleaning & Disinfecting Athletic Facilities for MRSA – Link
    (Two page PDF on cleaning and Cleaning & Disinfecting Athletic Facilities for MRSA)