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.
Listening to Andy Garcia talk about his son's latest hobby, you get the
sense that a toy caboose is just as important to the actor, director, and
musician as the release of his latest feature film, Ocean's Thirteen,
which opened last month to fanfare, here and abroad.
"He plays a lot of trains," Garcia says of the 5-year-old aficionado, and
then adds with gravitas: "He's an avid collector."
Unlike some of his overtly ambitious, publicity-seeking peers, Garcia, 51,
is a private man who treasures...
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.