When Exercise Isn’t Healthy

Kyle Frey, a 21-year-old junior from Drexel University in Philadelphia, was one of his school’s star wrestlers when something startling happened. One day, Frey, who worked out with his team almost daily, noticed a small lesion–much like a pimple–developing on his arm; while it seemed slightly unusual, he thought little of it at the time.

Frequent cleaning throughout the day can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

A few days later, however, after a match with a competing team, Frey noticed that the pimple had now grown considerably, and was beginning to hurt. By morning, the pimple had grown as large as a golf ball and was very painful.

Frey’s trainer rushed him to the emergency room, where doctors discovered an infection known as MRSA–methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus–a potentially deadly disease usually requiring treatment with several antibiotics in large quantities.

Frey was released after a five-day hospital stay, healthy but quite curious about where he had acquired the disease. His doctors believed he might have caught it from another wrestler–someone who had the disease and wasn’t aware of it. Or, more likely, he had contracted it from a contaminated wrestling mat and/or gym equipment, or even from surfaces such as benches in the locker room.

While this particular occurrence did not happen in a park or recreational facility, MRSA is now showing up frequently in exercise facilities and gyms across the country; in fact, MRSA infections are now a risk literally anywhere people go to exercise and stay in shape.

A Surprisingly Common Problem

While many exercise participants have experienced inconveniences such as athlete’s foot–a common foot infection caused by a fungus–there are simple, over-the-counter treatments readily available for such problems.

A clean locker room is a healthy locker room.

However, according to a position paper just released by the National Athletic Trainers Association, “Skin infections, along with other infectious diseases, are extremely common” among people who use gym facilities. In fact, the paper further states, skin infections lead to more than half of all the outbreaks of infectious diseases occurring among participants in competitive sports.

“This is of concern for park and recreation facilities because with tight school budgets and limitations on sport activities–and even the actual closing of sports facilities–many school-age children are now turning to park and recreation facilities for exercise,” says John Richter, Technical Director for Kaivac, developers of the No-Touch Cleaning System.

“Prevention is key to minimizing the problem and, in all fairness, gym and locker-room users, young and old, can also do a lot themselves to stay healthy.”

Richter has several suggestions for both park and recreational facility managers and users that can help keep the areas and those who use them healthy:

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