Athletes share more than gear

Liam Pickhardt, Staff writer

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Blood, sweat and tears: a phrase that has been coined by athletic teams across the country. It refers to the sacrifice and commitment required of successful athletes; however, new re- search suggests the phrase references certain dangers of athletics.

In nearly all sports, athletes regularly come in contact with each other, and many share equipment including helmets, bats, water bottles, and showers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study on Sept. 21 titled “Infectious Diseases Associated With Organized Sports and Outbreak Control,” which analyzes the effect—and potential prevention—of infectious diseases in athletics.

Participating in organized sports is beneficial but also potentially exposes athletes to infectious diseases, the authors wrote. “Major risk factors for infection include skin-to-skin contact with athletes who have active skin infections, environmental exposures and physical trauma, and sharing of equipment and contact with contaminated fomites.”

The authors said that the risk of disease could be greatly diminished by implementing policies and leadership decisions advocating for proper hygiene and self-recognition.

Teaching athletes proper personal hygiene and avoiding the need to share equipment and toiletry items, the authors said, is a great first-step in eliminating the risk of infectious diseases in athletics.

A cross country and track and field athlete at Linfield and former high school wrestler, Josh Ramirez, ’21, has been around several athletes that have dealt with infectious diseases.

“Teammates of mine had bad cases of ringworm from the headgear they shared,” Ramirez said. “One teammate of mine contracted staph infection from wrestling, as he was on his knees. His infection caused him to deal with flu-like symptoms.”

Ramirez said that if his teammates would have been more proactive, they might have been able to completely avoid the infections.

He said that his coaches spread awareness of infectious diseases, but his teammates still struggled.

Ramirez pointed toward economic hardships as often the cause of the issue. He said that some of his teammates were forced to borrow equipment because they couldn’t afford their own.

If an athlete or team can’t afford equipment, coaches and trainers need to spend ample time cleaning and sanitizing all equipment and training surfaces. The effort to clean equipment, showers and locker rooms regularly is one of the most important steps in slowing the outbreak of infectious diseases among athletes, the writers of the study said.

As in hospitals and other medical facilities, athletic facilities would benefit from policies and processes that promote thorough cleaning.

Although, Linfield baseball player Eli Konsker, ’20, said that athletes should take matters into their own hands.

“You are in control of all your own equipment,” Konsker said. “If you al- low someone to borrow something for practice, that was your choice.”

Konsker said that in general, he is satisfied with how the college protects athletes’ health.

“This is a topic I never think about because it’s handled pretty well,” he said.

“At Linfield, we make sure our uniforms are clean. Also, if someone is having issues, I believe they will speak up and be more cautious.”