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Staphylococcus aureus (staph) bacteria commonly reside on the skin or in the nose of healthy people and do not cause infection. When these bacteria enter the body through a break in the skin, they can cause mild skin infections, such as pimples, rashes, or boils. Staph can also cause serious infections, such as bloodstream infections, bone infections or pneumonia. Over the years, some staph bacteria have become resistant to various antibiotics. These resistant bacteria are called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (please refer to Quick Facts about MRSA at http://www.in.gov/isdh/22122.htm.
Most infections are spread by direct physical contact with a cut or scrape of someone who has a staph infection or by indirect contact with an object (such as towels, clothes, bandages, or sports equipment) that is soiled with wound drainage. The bacteria are not carried through the air, and they are not found in dirt or mud.
During competition, athletes may develop abrasions or other skin trauma that can facilitate the entry of bacteria. Transmission occurs through direct contact in sports that involve frequent physical contact, such as football and wrestling. In sports that involve less direct contact, protective clothing may become hot and chafe the skin, resulting in abrasions, rashes, and lacerations. Athletes who share personal items or equipment that has not been cleaned put themselves and others at increased risk of contracting a staph infection.
Staph skin infections normally cause a red, swollen, and painful area on the skin (boil). Other symptoms include a skin abscess, drainage of pus or other fluids from the site, fever, or warmth around the infected area.
All information presented is intended for public use. For more information, please refer to:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus among Competitive Sports Participants - Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Los Angles County, 2000-2003
Mecklenburg County Health Department, North Carolina
Video: Prevention of MRSA in the Athletic Setting
Texas Department of State Health Services
This page was last reviewed August 31, 2009.