Skin Infections in Athletes

Brian B Adams


Expert Rev Dermatol. 2010;5(5):567-577. 

In This Article

Expert Commentary

The blossoming growth of interest and research in sports dermatology in the past 10 years promises to enhance the athletic experience. This focus on sports dermatology results, to a great degree, from the intense scrutiny of skin infections in athletes. Many stakeholders exist who possess an interest in cutaneous infections in athletes, including clinicians, coaches, school and professional administrators, parents, and of course, athletes themselves. In addition, the spotlight shines on sports-related skin infections as news media reports besiege the public with the untoward side effects of athletic participation.

Unfortunately public attention to this problem among athletes may have had a negative impact on athletes. Some individuals even consider not exercising for fear of contracting microorganisms from workout facilities. Public education focusing on the far greater beneficial effects of exercise remains paramount. Furthermore, athletes only need to employ simple strategies to avoid contracting skin infections from their sporting environment or other athletes.

Another significant issue for optimal care of the athlete remains the poor communication among the various individuals invested in the overall health of the athlete. Discontinuous and unfocused attention often characterizes the care of high school and younger athletes. At these levels, the athlete's family physician or pediatrician coordinates medical care. Most often these clinicians lack the knowledge and resources critical for the optimal treatment and prevention of sports-related skin infections. At the collegiate, professional and Olympic levels, coordinated medical attention appears more common.

It is also important to understand that the medical care of the athlete involves many varied clinicians with unique backgrounds. Athletic trainers represent the face of medical care on the fields of play, at all levels, in the USA. Also, primary care sports medicine physicians and orthopedic surgeons provide care alongside the many certified athletic trainers. The training of these 'first responders' for athletic healthcare often lacks extensive education on cutaneous issues.

Athletes represent a unique population who acquire skin infections more often than nonathletes. The rapid diagnosis and treatment of these skin infections will prevent disruption to individual training and competition and will minimize epidemics among teams. Frequent, precise and candid communication among the athletes, coaches and medical staff maximizes the potential for a competitive season free from skin infection.


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