Organized sports provide a wide range of benefits for children and teens. But there’s a risk of infections if certain safety measures aren’t followed, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns.
“Joining an athletic team is a fun, physically challenging and healthy way for kids to practice teamwork and sportsmanship, but they do need to understand the importance of good hygiene,” said the report’s lead author, Dr. H. Dele Davies. He’s a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.
“Besides showering and washing hands, athletes should be discouraged from sharing their water bottles, towels, mouth guards and other personal items,” he said in an AAP news release.
Most sports-related infections are spread by skin contact, contaminated food or water, respiratory droplets or airborne particles.
According to report co-author Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, “Some of these germs can be picked up in weight rooms, on mats and in locker rooms.” Jackson is a member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.
“Coaches and trainers should develop a plan for proper cleaning and maintenance of all sporting facilities and equipment,” she added.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacteria that can be spread by skin contact, and has been associated with high school football and wrestling, the report authors noted. Fungal infections — such as ringworm and athlete’s foot — are common, as are infections with parasites, including scabies and lice.
Airborne infections that can be transmitted during sports include chicken pox, measles and mumps, according to the report.
The AAP recommendations include:
1.Teaching student-athletes good personal hygiene methods, including proper laundering of uniforms and avoiding sharing of drinks or personal products, such as razors.
2.A plan for thorough cleaning and maintenance of sports equipment.
3.Proper management of blood and other bodily fluids.
4.Routine screening of athletes during practices, and before and after competitions.
“The best thing coaches can do is identify the problem early, even if it is something as benign-looking as a cold sore, so they can prevent its spread,” said Dr. Stephen Rice.
“We want the students not only to participate in sports, but to have a good experience,” Rice added. He’s a member of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.
The report was released online Sept. 25 and will be published in the October print issue of the journal Pediatrics.