Like many other sports, skin-to-skin contact between participants in a wrestling match is completely unavoidable. But unlike football or basketball, for example, this close contact is far more frequent and sustained in wrestling, where opponents may grapple with each other for several minutes at a stretch without letting go. So when bodily fluids such as sweat, saliva, and blood mingle with the harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi sometimes found on used wrestling mats and gear, all it takes is some lax hygiene habits for a skin lesion to develop.

Wrestling skin problems run the gamut from relatively benign annoyances–like athlete’s foot–to more severe infections that may require professional medical treatment or hospitalization. Some of the most common skin lesions faced by wrestlers at all levels of the sport include the following:

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Jock itch
  • Ringworm
  • Impetigo
  • MRSA (staph infection)
  • Herpes gladiatorum (HSV-1, which manifests as a cluster of painful blisters that usually appear on the face, neck, torso, or legs)
  • Molluscum contagiosum (MC)

Fortunately, these infections are highly preventable and may be warded off by strict adherence to sound hygienic practices. For example, all wrestlers should:

  • Shower with a mesh scrub and antibacterial Defense Soap (available at immediately after practices and competitions
  • Wash or sanitize singlets, socks, headgear, athletic supporters, and other wrestling equipment after each use
  • Refrain from sharing personal wrestling gear or towels with teammates
  • Wrap or cover any broken skin (e.g. cuts, scratches, mat burns, etc.) before competing

Although the skin problems mentioned here are a serious threat to any active wrestler, good hygiene goes a long way toward minimizing risk. As long as you shower thoroughly, wash your gear every day, and take extra caution with broken skin, you should be able to get through the season without seeing a hint of these infections.