NORCROSS, Ga. -- A recent survey of mothers of school-age athletes in the U.S. showed that only 26 percent were concerned about their child being exposed to germs during sports. Yet community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA), a type of staph infection that is resistant to many common antibiotics, has been shown to be more prevalent in athletic settings and has caused serious injury and even death in young athletes.
The survey of 300 mothers ages 25-60 who had children between the ages of 7 and 17 that played organized sports was conducted by Vantage Insights, Inc., on behalf of Molnlycke Health Care. It provides a better understanding of infection information needs and shows that slightly more than half of U.S. households have children participating in some type of organized sport. The most popular sports were baseball, softball, soccer, basketball and football all of which could be considered "dirty sports" or those that have an element of direct contact with others or the ground.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005(1) linked MRSA infections to the abrasions caused by artificial turf. More recently, studies by the Texas Department of State Health Services found that the infection rate among football players was 16 times (517 cases per 100,000)(2) the national average (32 per 100,000).(3) In October 2007, a high school student in Virginia who had played football died from MRSA and two high school teams -- one in Florida and one in North Carolina -- reported MRSA infections among five or more players.(4) In January 2008, a 13-year-old died from a MRSA infection believed to be acquired from a wrestling class.(5)
MRSA is usually spread from person-to-person through direct skin contact or contact with shared items or surfaces such as towels, used bandages, hot and cold tubs, or weight-training equipment surfaces that have touched a person's infection. MRSA infections in the community are usually manifested as skin infections, such as pimples and boils that are red, swollen and painful. MRSA can be life threatening when it enters the body through scrapes and scratches, potentially leading to blood and joint infections, pneumonia and even death.
Charlotte Ferrill, the mother of four children ranging in age from 5 to 17, all who play sports, understands first hand the seriousness of MRSA. In 2006, her then 16-year-old son, Luke, came home from a football game with a 6-inch surface scratch on his forearm, probably a turf burn or tackle wound. Unfortunately, it was diagnosed as impetigo, a common, contagious skin rash. Soon, Luke began experiencing dramatic health issues unbefitting of a previously healthy, athletic teenager including headaches, dizziness, muscle pain and weakness, golf ball-size masses in his armpits that had to be drained and exceptionally high blood pressure. Finally, he developed what appeared to be a pimple on his thigh that grew in redness and was hot to the touch. Luke was finally diagnosed with MRSA.
"We were so relieved to know what we were up against, but we had no idea how horrible it was going to be. We nearly lost him because the MRSA had become systemic and was ravaging his body," said Ferrill.
For the next few months it was rounds of intravenous pain killers, antibiotics, fluids and shots. Within nine months of that first turf burn, Luke was unable to walk and was only awake about 40 minutes a day.
"Clearly, the most important priority for moms of active kids is prevention, both at home and in the locker rooms. Believe me, you never want this to happen to your child," said Ferrill. "At the same time, immediately recognizing any skin issues or health problems is essential."
Now, when the Ferrill family, which is very close knit and active, goes to public places such as zoos, museums, or even travels abroad, they always wash up to their elbows before they leave home and as soon as they return with a cleanser that not only kills MRSA, but continues to do so for up to six hours.
"Cleansers with chlorhexidine gluconate or CHG cleanse the skin, but also add a barrier for hours of protection," said Jack Doornbos, director of channel marketing for Molnlycke Health Care, maker of Hibiclens(R) skin cleanser, which contains 4 percent CHG. "CHG has been used in hospitals and operating rooms for decades to prevent the spread of infection. But now, with MRSA and other resistant infections becoming more common in the community and especially in youth sports, having the ability to cleanse the entire family's skin with a product many surgeons use has a great benefit. It has the potential to save lives."
According to the Vantage Insights survey, nearly 60 percent of moms do encourage frequent handwashing. But, many do not realize two key factors:
-- Washing hands with soap and water can be effective in lower-risk settings such as homes, stores, cars, etc. But, in higher-risk settings such as schools and athletics, where skin-to-skin contact is common, it is better to wash hands with a cleanser that kills current germs and continues killing them for as long as possible, such as cleansers with CHG.
--Washing hands prior to activities can make a significant difference, especially if long-lasting cleansers are used. Most products with CHG add protection, but do not leave a residue that affects sports play.
"Hibiclens is a staple in our household. In fact, this year, when Luke went back to play football for his senior year, which we weren't sure would even happen, he took Hibistat Towlettes with CHG, to wipe all of his equipment down before and after games," said Ferrill.
Hibiclens and Hibistat(R) are available at drug stores and pharmacies in the first aid section. Hibiclens is ideal for those who play sports -- children (age 7 and above) or adults -- and has been used by athletic trainers for years to protect their athletes from infections including those at The Citadel and Washington & Lee.
1. Kazakova SV, Hageman JC, Matava M, et al. A clone of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among professional football players. New England Journal of Medicine. 352:468-475;5. Feb. 3, 2005.
2. Epstein V. Texas Football succumbs to virulent staph infection from turf. Bloomberg. Dec. 21, 2007.
3. Klevens RM, Morrison MA, Nadle J, et al. Invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 298, No. 15. 1763-1771. Oct. 17, 2007.
4. Six States Report MRSA Infections, At Least Three Youths Have Died. Fox News and Associated Press. Oct. 19, 2007.
5. Lieberman B. Superbug infection kills teen. San Diego Union-Tribune. Jan. 26, 2008.
Source: Molnlycke Health Care US, LLC