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Do all wrestlers get Ringworms

My son wants to join the wrestling team....but i'm not sure if he should because i've heard that all wrestlers get ringworms....could you please tell me if that is true...and what ringworms is also...thank you for your time
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Avatar universal
No, not all wrestlers get Ringworms but the avenue is present to easily spread it (i.e., shared mats, skin-to-skin contact).  In recent years, skin disease in wrestling has finally received the attention it deserves. With the NCAA mandating skin inspections prior to each competition, the wrestling community was forced to address the issue. For many years it was a taboo subject, similar to "cutting weight". Many ignored the problem or attempted to cover it up with make-up. Others treated the skin lesion with a variety of home remedies in an attempt to kill it. There was a fear that it would keep the wrestler from competition. Holding one wrestler from competition is better than infecting many.

A big factor in these problems was the lack of education among the wrestling and medical community. Physicians, coaches, athletic trainers and wrestlers needed to recognize the signs, symptoms and appearance of various skin diseases. Another problem was identifying the proper treatment for each skin disease. Many of the traditional medications used on the general population were not working effectively with wrestlers. It seemed to be a more resistant strain and more difficult to attack.

Recent research and education has greatly improved the diagnosis and treatment of skin disease in wrestling. One person leading the charge has been Dr. David Vasily, Team Dermatologist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Along with Jack Foley, Director of Sports Medicine at Lehigh, they have increased awareness of the importance of controlling skin disease in wrestling. They wrote NCAA guidelines and were a big factor in the NCAA mandating skin inspections. They have also developed treatment protocols and continue to try new medications for various skin problems.

Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)
Tinea is the term used for fungal infection of the skin. Commonly referred to by the location of the infection, tinea unguum (nails), tinea pedis (athlete's foot), tinea cruris (jock itch), tinea corporis (body) and tinea capitis (scalp and hair). In wrestlers, Tinea corporis is know as tinea gladiatorum commonly known as "ring worm". The fungus causes a characteristic lesion which is often clear in the center with a rough, scaly, circular border. The lesions vary in size from very small circular patches to large patches. The dermatologist often uses a scraping to examine the fungus under the microscope. A KOH prep test can be used by a dermatologist to determine the activity of the tinea. Tinea corporis is contagious and is spread through direct contact with infected individuals and, very likely, from infections spores on inanimate objects such as clothing, mats, etc. The organism responsible for tinea gladiatorum, trichophyton tonsurans, is quite contagious and very difficult to treat.

Treatment for "ring worm" includes application of an anti-fungal cream to the affected area. The most effective anti-fungal cream has been Lamisil (terbinafine hydrochloride). Lamisil cream 1% should be applied to cover the affected and immediately surrounding areas at least twice per day. Lamisil should be applied for at least two weeks. Although only a few applications of the cream may render the fungus non contagious, it may take 4-6 weeks for the pink spot to resolve. It is very important to continue the use of anti-fungal cream for one week after the lesions have cleared because the fungus may be living under the skin, invisible to the naked eye. Most treatment failures occur because the patient stops the medication too early. According to Dr. Vasily, over the counter anti-fungal creams such as tolnaftate (Tinactin) or clotrimazole (Lotrimin) only suppress the fungus.

An oral medication may be indicated by a dermatologist when multiple tinea lesions or scalp involvement are present. Dr. Vasily recommends Lamisil 250mg 1 tablet per day for 4 weeks. Lamisil cream has been shown to be less effective on lesions of the scalp, thus oral Lamisil is needed. Shampooing with selenium (selson blue) may prevent contagious spores from infecting others and is also used preventively after contact.

Prevention of tinea should be a major priority in wrestling. Prevention begins with cleaning all mats pre and post practice with a hospital grade disinfectant. Second, wrestlers should be educated on what to look for and inspect their own bodies daily. Third, wrestlers must wash all workout gear daily and be sure to wash knee pads and head gear twice a week. Fourth, wrestlers should shower immediately after workouts and use an antibacterial soap and selenium shampoo. It is also important to keep the skin from drying out creating portals of entry for infection. Finally, when a lesion is noticed, they must consult their physician or athletic trainer and use the proper medication. The lesion should be covered prior to wrestling according to NCAA guidelines outlined below.

If a wrestler is identified as having a tinea lesion, the NCAA uses the following guidelines to determine the wrestlers competition status:

1. A minimum of 72 hours of topical therapy is required for skin lesions. The topic antifungals terbinafine or naftifine (lamisil or naftin) are suggested for treatment. A minimum of two weeks of systemic antifungal therapy (oral medication) is required for scalp lesions.
2. Wrestlers with extensive and active lesions will be disqualified. Activity of treated lesions can be judged by examination of KOH prep and the therapeutic regimen. Wrestlers with solitary, or closely clustered, localized lesions will be disqualified if lesions are in a body location that cannot be covered securely. Covering routine should include selenium sulfide or ketoconazole shampoo (nizeral) washing of the lesion followed by application of naftifine gel or cream (naftin) or terbinafine cream (lamisil). A gas-permeable dressing such as Op-site, bioclusive or duoderm should be applied over the lesion, followed by prowrap and stretch tape. Dressing changes should be done after each workout so that lesion can air dry.
3. The dispensation of tinea cases will be decided on an individual basis, as determined by the examining physician and/or certified athletic trainer.
According to Jack Foley, the best prevention is to have a plan or formula for being both pro-active and preventative. Dr. Vasily and Foley have implemented the HITE plan. The word simply refers to H for a hygiene and herpes talk, including a skin survey filled out by all wrestlers, followed by a thorough skin examination. I stands for immediate isolation at the onset of symptoms with potentially contagious skin problems. T stands for the treatment and proper medication and dosage given over an appropriate course of time. E stands for education and our continuing effort to educate wrestlers, coaches , parents and members of the medical community about skin infections and their prevention, recognition and treatment.

It is always difficult to disqualify a wrestler who has worked hard to compete, but everyone deals with it better now that we have a base of knowledge in the wrestling community," stated Dr. Vasily. "There has been an increased awareness and communication among athletic trainers and medical staffs that have allowed a steady decline in skin disease in wrestling", stated Foley. The numbers of skin disease at the National Prep Tournament have significantly decreased over the last five years." Foley also said "There has been a steady decline overall, but most importantly with herpes gladiatorum." "Ringworm still exists, but we now have the education to recognize it and treat it properly."

After a recent outbreak of herpes in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, Dr. Vasily and Jack Foley were inundated with calls for help. "Today, I feel many if not all programs are willing to be pro-active while being preventative, moving from an antagonistic position to a more cooperative awareness through education", stated Foley. Dr. Vasily stated that "the positive situation today is due to the hard work of athletic trainers and the cooperation of the coaches, both parties have been critical in the overall success." A final goal is for collegiate sports medicine staffs to sponsor an educational seminar for local school districts annually. Foley expressed that "this would result in a continued effort in preventing and managing skin infections in this great sport of wrestling at all levels."

**Note: Always consult your local dermatologist regarding any skin lesions.

Avatar universal
Here are the references for my post above:

The article was written by Rob Lawton ATC.

Additional References:

Jack Foley, Director of Sports Medicine, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA (***@****)

Dr. David Vasily, Team Dermatologist, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA

1999 NCAA Wrestling Rules and Interpretations

The Skin Site, capederm.com

Virtual Hospital, University of Iowa Dermatology, vh.org

Additionally, you can find much more information on this topic on the internet.  Try a google search using the search terms: wrestlers ringworm

My advice?  Wrestling, like everything else in life, involves risks.  The best you can do is research and understand the risks and then you will be better armed to make an informed decision and potentially mitigate the risks.
Avatar universal
I heard a story about a whole wrestling team at a high school somewhere getting some sort of STD from each other do to the mats and all that skin contact. I wonder if that's even possible. I don't know...with all these new "stories" coming out about wrestling, I wouldn't do it! But that's just me. I'm a girl, I never would wrestle anyway. But I'd hate to think about what a guy could get rubbing against the mats and other half naked guys! LOL!
Avatar universal
Avatar universal

I wrestled for many years.  I in fact *did* get ringworm AND flat warts during that time.  Both were easily treated with topical creams.  I may have missed a couple of days of practice each time.

The key to preventing skin problems in wrestling is cleanliness.  The mats of the practice room should be cleaned properly both before and after practice.  In addition, the wrestlers themselves must exercise proper hygiene.  In high school, our coaches made sure everyone showered before leaving the building.

I would definitely NOT hold your son out of wrestling for fear of contracting a fairly harmless skin fungus.  It is an occupational hazard of wrestling, but certainly no worse than those posed by other contact sports (football is particularly bad for your health, for example).


Avatar universal
Ringworm is no worse than athlete's foot.  Actually, they're basically the same thing.  I've wrestled since I was a little kid, and I can tell you that it's no big deal.  With proper practices, which all coaches should be following, it should be a non-issue.  There are mat cleaners with fungicidal ingredients.  Athletes should shower after every workout, immediately.  And nobody with any kind of skin issue is allowed in practice.  So don't worry... let your son wrestle!
Avatar universal
Hi maddjake, how are you? Yes, with high hygiene standards in today's world, it is possible to prevent this ringworm infection and I do not think one should give away the career perspective just assuming an illness. "To avoid ringworm infection, avoid contact with suspicious lesions, wear loose-fitting clothes, avoid sharing clothes, and after showering, dry off completely". Hope this link is useful as it gives more information on the preventions aspect:  
I appreciate you encouraging keeping up sports spirit. Take care.
Avatar universal
Hey, I am 12 years old and my name is matt. I had ringworm in the beginning of wrestling. No big deal though. Just make sure you shower right after practice. If you dont you will start getting warts, ringworm, staff ect..... If you eventually do get Ring Worm talk to your doctor and they will prescribe you with mediceine. The coomon cream is Ketoconazole. Let your son wrestle its a good experience..
Avatar universal
No, all wrestlers do not get ringworm.  

One of my sons wrestles competitively (5th, 6th, and 7th grades), and the mats are cleaned before and after every practice with a spray on solution and a squeegee mop thing.  The same is done by all the other teams in the area, and of course, for meets too.  That doesn't mean that nobody will get it,but it certainly cuts down on the chances.  You also want to wash the singlet and sterilize the headgear frequently.

I'd check with the coach(es) to find out how often the mats are cleaned and if there has been a history of ringworm, lice, etc.  And in the end, go with your gut :-)
Good luck!
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