They try their best to stop it, but there is nothing that they can do. They scrub the mats, shower after practice and use medicated soaps. But it still does not prevent the spreading completely. The many infections wrestlers can contract seem endless – staph infections, impetigo, ringworm. The East wrestling staff keeps the entire practice room clean, but that does not eliminate the possibility of a wrestler getting an infection from other places.
It goes with the sport.
“You can clean and clean and clean, you just have to take certain precautions and that is all you can do,” Ron Wollenhaupt, the Shawnee Mission East athletic trainer said.
According to Wollenhaupt, every season, there are dozens of athletes at East that are infected with skin problems. Junior Max Hofmeister has had three different skin infections during this season alone.
“You can get them from touching other people,” Hofmeister said. “You usually go to the doctor for it and take antibiotics.”
Detecting the infection early enables the wrestler to get the specific help depending on the infection.
“The most important thing is that the parents of wrestlers are knowledgeable and know when their child has a skin problem,” Wollenhaupt said.
The wrestling managers clean the mats every day after practice to prevent the future spread of germs and infections. It is a priority to make sure that every piece of equipment is entirely sanitary after every use. They wipe the mats and use a cleaning solution that will kill the bacteria that may grow.
Occasionally, a wrestler will participate in practice with an infection. In this stage, the wrestler does not yet know if they have an infection or does not see signs of an infection yet.
“If a wrestler does practice when they are infected, we wrap the infected area to prevent future infections,” wrestling manager Ree Ae Jordan said.
According to Wollenhaupt, it is important to protect the wrestlers during practice so that they are able to compete in meets. Wrestling is different from other contact sports, since there is less clothing between the competitors.
“Skin infections are in all sports, they are just covered up by padding or the particular uniform of that sport,” head wrestling coach, Chip Ufford said. “The biggest reason for contracting skin stuff is due to poor habits.”
Every person on the team is encouraged to take frequent showers after every practice and get completely well before returning to practice.
“The main thing is that [the wrestlers] need to shower right after practice and not wait to take a shower when they get home,” Jordan said. “There is time for bacteria to grow if they wait.”
The wrestlers become healthy from these infections after taking antibiotics, using anti-fungal soap, antibacterial soap and frequent showers. The wrestling staff does not allow a person to participate in practice if they appear to have signs of an infection – red blotches or lesions.
“[The wrestlers] do a good job getting healthy again,” Wollenhaupt said. “They pay attention to their infections and take care of themselves.”
Problems occur when wrestlers from different school wrestle with infections. While the East wrestlers do not compete in meets if they have an infection, there are other schools that do not regulate the infections.
“Kansas High School Athletic Association (KSHSAA) does not allow any wrestler to compete with skin issues but unfortunately sometimes the officials don’t catch every wrestler who has a skin problem,” Ufford said.
Some infections are unavoidable when a wrestler has to compete with someone who has an infection. In these cases, a wrestler has to go to the doctor and stop practicing to prevent giving the infection to someone else.
“Germs are everywhere,” Wollenhaupt said. “The athletes need to pay attention to lesions and keep them covered and clean.”