Staph can linger on basketballs, volleyballs and players' hands

July 31, 2013

Topic: sports medicine

Staph can linger on basketballs, volleyballs and players' hands

Sports medicine is not just about the injuries that people suffer while engaging in athletic activities, but illnesses that can result from playing sports, as well. This can include bacterial infections that players can acquire while practicing or participating in a game or race. 

A new study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's recent meeting discussed the consequences of germs that can spread among athletes who handle the same equipment and make contact with one another. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, looked specifically at Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that can cause staph infections such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus, commonly known as MRSA. They analyzed for the presence of the germ on the surfaces of basketballs, volleyballs and players' hands. 

"The overwhelming prevalence of S. aureus we encountered supports our understanding of the gym environment as a reservoir of germs," said study supervisor Joshua Cotter, a postdoctoral fellow in orthopedic surgery. "Institutions, coaches and athletes should take note of the role the sports ball can play as a vehicle for the transmission of potentially life-threatening germs."

MRSA in particular is a threat to athletes as it is resistant to many antibiotics. It is a high priority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the number of cases of the infection in the U.S. In order to do this, it is important to determine where the infection is, how it is being spread and how many cases there are. 

For the safety of athletes, coaches, trainers and parents should be aware of MRSA and other staph infections so that they can understand the importance of regularly and thoroughly cleaning sports equipment, as doing so can reduce athletes' risk of contracting the bacteria. 

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