Joining together to fight methicillin-resistant staphylococcus

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, January 31, 2007

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Niles Daily Star
NILES – There was a time when coaches, trainers and athletic directors only had to worry about the occasional ring worm running through its wrestling program.
Staph infections were rare.
But those days are long gone.
Today, those groups are banding together to fight a more serious battle.
They have joined forces to fight against methicillin-resistant staphylococcus infection (CA-MRSA).
This disease used to be limited to hospitals, but it has found its way into the public and, more to the point, into our high schools.
Wrestling seems to be the main focus when it comes to fighting this disease, but according to former Dowagiac trainer Lori Andrews, all athletes who come in close contact with each other are at risk.
"I have heard about it wiping out entire football teams," Andrews said in a telephone interview from Saline High School on Tuesday. "I haven't personally had to deal with it yet, but I have sent a lot of kids to the doctor to make sure we don't have a problem with it."
The key to controlling the disease, which according to Andrews spreads like wildfire, is early detection.
"If I have a cut that just doesn't look quite right, I tell the kids to get to the doctors," she said. "You have to get it looked at right away and you have to have the proper diagnosis or you can get into real trouble with this."
The Michigan High School Athletic Association has been very pro-active when it comes to MRSA. It is going to great lengths to educate their coaches, especially wrestling coaches, about what to look for and how to keep their programs from becoming infected.
It really is quite simple to keep MRSA from invading our high schools. Keeping equipment clean, like wrestling mats and the clothes that the athletes wear. Making sure that the athletes keep themselves clean can prevent a breakout.
"Really, if you just use the things you have learned since you were in kindergarten you should be alright," Andrews said. "You know, like washing your hands and using a Kleenex will go a long way toward preventing this disease from spreading through a program."
Dowagiac Athletic Director Greg Younger noted that the district is also very pro-active about keeping disease out of its programs.
"We stress with our wrestling program keeping things clean," Younger said. "We make available individual body cleansing solutions. Each kid is issued the solutions and encouraged to clean themselves off after their matches."
Younger added that the wrestling programs washes down the mats with a special solution before and after each practice. The coaches also look for open sores and take the proper steps to keep them from becoming infected.
"Coach (John) Green is very conscious of these issues," Younger said. "We talk about this all the time. We have probably had two cases of ring worm since I came here."