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Youth and High School Football Pose Risk of Skin Infections

While skin infections associated with contact with synthetic turf have received national attention in recent years, but there is no scientific evidence to support concern that the surfaces of infilled synthetic turf (the kind containing crumb rubber found in all fields built since the late 1990's) harbor the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, the bacteria that cause MRSAsays a recent study. (Serensits, McNitt, and Petrunak 2011).

There are some studies that suggest that those who play on artificial turf experience a higher rate of skin infections from MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), but research has not shown that synthetic turf itself poses a health hazard or harbors the staph bacteria that causes MRSA; rather, it is the increased risk of turf burns that may create a gateway for infection.

Artificial turfInstead, the studies said that the most likely causes for the outbreaks were poor sanitary conditions in locker rooms and training facilities, and physical contact between players. One of the studies (Begier 2004) also suggested that small cuts from body shaving - an increasingly common practice among young male athletes - provided an avenue for infection.

Two studies (Kasakova 2005; Begier 2004) examined the causes and the role of infilled synthetic turf in MRSA outbreaks in football teams. While both studies concluded that turf burns caused by synthetic turf could facilitate skin infection through person-to-person contact, neither suggested that the players contracted the infection directly from bacteria in the synthetic turf itself.

High physical contact is a part of the game; and even the briefest high five can spread bacteria from player to player. In one study (Begier, 2004), players who sustained turf burns had a risk of infection 7 times higher than that for players without turf burns, suggesting that infection is facilitated by turf burns, although the abrasions were not always directly adjacent to the site of the infection.

The study found that cornerbacks and wide receivers were particularly at risk if they sustain such abrasions, as they have frequent direct person-to-person contact with each other during scrimmage play and drills.

Equipment bags constantly see sweaty equipment and are often times contaminated with bacteria, creating the famous ‘sweat stench.'

Locker rooms are high traffic, damp areas that see hundreds of people every day, making them ideal habitats and easy spreaders of potentially menacing bacteria.

For ways to reduce the risk that your child will develop a staph infection such as MRSA, click here.