As a child, I never would have guessed I'd one day be paid to type the
phrase "jock itch."
Actually, I'm sort of surprised now as an adult to find that jock itch, and
its southerly cousin athlete's foot, still exist. There's something sort of
quaint about these and other minor locker room infections — they seem to
belong in the moldering realm of short shorts and tube socks that marked our
fathers' Saturday mornings at the Y. Surely today's athletes, with their
x-treme cross trainers and x-treme energy bars, needn't worry about such musty
old athlete infections. Anyway, that's what I thought.
Mark Liszt, a food broker from Los Angeles, has had operations on both knees and a toe. A doctor has suggested a total replacement of his right knee, but he’s afraid it will affect his ability to play ball. At 59, Liszt can’t stop. On Tuesdays and Fridays, he plays basketball with guys who are sometimes half his age. On Saturday, he hobbles around all day with serious knee pain. Friends and family have referred him to doctors, but he’s stayed away. “I don’t want to be told what a fool I am,” he says...
I was wrong. For athletes who manage not to concuss themselves on the
goalpost or collapse in a heap on the football field, a host of thoroughly
non-fatal minor infections wait in the wings. Some can be a genuine pain in
the, well, jock. Others are better filed under irritation. But all bring little
leaguers and professionals alike to the doctor each season.
As Joanna Badger, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at
Stanford, tells it, the world's wrestlers are first in line.
Herpes gladiatorum: Wrestlers, that would be you
Herpes gladiatorum, as the name suggests, is "not at all uncommon with
wrestlers," Badger says. "There are sometimes epidemic outbreaks
throughout a whole team. My friend's a wrestler, and I'm always giving him
something for herpes."
The infection is spread through close skin-to-skin contact, and results in a
herpes simplex rash generally found on the shoulders, arms, neck, and face. (It
happens enough that the National Collegiate Athletic Association has looked
into ways of addressing its impact on wrestling.) Antiviral medications can
speed up its subsidence, but generally, there aren't many preventive options
besides watching for rashes and scrubbing those mats.
Impetigo: You again, wrestlers
Having dodged herpes, the wrestler often must contend with impetigo. More
common in children, this skin infection is also spread via the close contact
that wrestling rather depends on. Keeping the mats clean is, again, the best
prevention. Failing that, the red sores that appear eventually start to ooze
and will generally disappear on their own in a couple of weeks. They can also
be treated with antibiotics.