Easy Infection Prevention Best Practices for Athletic Trainers $0.00

Easy Infection Prevention Best Practices for Athletic Trainers

By: Rebecca Moore |
Easy Infection Prevention Best Practices for Athletic Trainers

Every year, hospitals spend an enormous amount of time and money drafting guidelines to combat healthcare-acquired infections. These professionals know that effective infection prevention programs are essential to keep their patients safe and satisfied. But how does this translate into athletics? Today, we’re taking a look at how athletic trainers can learn from the larger healthcare system to better care for their athletes, and how to integrate infection prevention protocol into an athletic facility with ease.

Rethink Athlete Safety

In traditional healthcare settings like a hospital, patients and staff are constantly interacting with each other and the surfaces around them. This leaves a lot of opportunity to transmit harmful bacteria, leading medical facilities to enact strict guidelines around skin and surface hygiene.

Athletic facilities are no different. Whether student athletes are in the locker room, the bus, the weight room, the athletic training room or in the game, they are almost exclusively in close quarters. The inevitable, frequent skin-to-skin and skin-to-surface contact leaves athletes at risk to contract infections that could jeopardize their career if not taken care of in a timely manner. In fact, a recent study showed that “the incidence of skin-related infectious diseases has been estimated at 8.5% of high school sports-related conditions and injuries and 20.9% of college sports-related conditions and injuries. About half of these skin infections affect the head, face or neck, likely secondary to direct skin-to-skin contact with infected opponents.”1

You spend tireless hours making sure that your athletes are healthy and in the game, which means that you’re tasked with juggling injury prevention and rehabilitation, mental health, nutrition and more. There are only so many hours in a day, which means you have to be mindful about how you prioritize your work; and it’s easy to let infection control drop to the bottom of that list, or to only focus on certain high-risk sports, like wrestling or football. However, every athlete deserves to thrive in a safe environment, which means getting serious about infection prevention protocol across your entire athlete population should be at the top of your to-do list.

10 Common Infections in Athletics

Skin infections are classified as bacterial, viral or fungal. Here are the top skin infections that the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) recommends you be on the lookout for (see the full infographic here):

  1. Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): A highly infectious strain of staph, commonly confused for a blemish or spider bite.
  2. Tinea corporis (ringworm): A fungal infection that causes pink-to-red O-shaped patches with raised borders
  3. Tinea cruris (jock itch): An infection of the groin area that causes large, red patches
  4. Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot): An infection that is the result of foot sweat causing fungal growth
  5. Herpes simplex virus: A painful, recurring infection commonly affecting the mouth, lips, eyes, skin and genitals
  6. Molluscum contagiosum: A highly infectious disease that manifests as clusters of smooth, flesh-colored, dome-shaped bumps
  7. Impetigo: A bacterial infection caused by streptococci, staphylococci, or both, commonly affecting the face
  8. Folliculitis: A superficial infection of the hair follicles that causes redness and bumps at the base of hair follicles
  9. Furunculosis: A deeper infection of the hair follicle (skin abscesses) caused by staphylococcal infections
  10. Carbunculosis: Furunculosis nodules joining together to form larger nodules

You can also read the NATA’s Position Statement on Skin Disease for more information regarding your role in the prevention of infection.

Important Infection Prevention Guidelines for Athletic Trainers

There are certain fundamentals for athletic trainers to follow when implementing a strong infection control program throughout your entire athletic facility. Here are some evidence-based best practices to start with:

  • Treat the entire chain of infection. While skin hygiene is often the core focus of many illness and infection prevention programs, surface hygiene is just as important. Because surfaces are a main vehicle for the transmission of germs, make sure you’re disinfecting high-touch surfaces in your athletic training room like:
    • Treatment and taping tables
    • Door handles
    • Drawer handles
    • Water cooler nozzles
    • Foam rollers
    • Exercise equipment
    • Hot/cold baths
    • Water bottles
  • Work with Intention. Mandate new ways of working with your entire staff so hygiene is increased throughout the day, like washing or sanitizing hands in between athletes or disinfecting all surfaces at the end of the day.
  • Encourage Athletes to Do Their Part. Educate athletes about the responsibility they have to protect themselves and their teammates from infections that could cost them a game or a season. Some effective rules to share include:
    • Require athletes to wash or sanitize their hands as they enter and leave the athletic training room.
    • Encourage athletes to NEVER share towels, foot cozies, razors, uniforms, water bottles and other personal athletic gear and equipment.
    • Mandate post-practice or post-game showers to make sure athletes are maintaining skin hygiene.
    • Require athletes to report, care for and cover skin cuts and lesions appropriately and immediately.
  • Engage All Stakeholders for Reinforcement. Train coaches and parents about infection prevention best practices so they know that everyone is accountable for athlete health and safety.
  • Surround Your Athletes with Reminders.Find posters or other educational materials you can hang in the athletic training room or broader athletic facilities to encourage organic conversations about risk.
  • Get the Word Out.Utilize social media to share infection prevention tips with your athletes, parents and other stakeholders.

Get Serious about Athlete Health and Safety

For more information on how to best fit infection control protocol into your daily duties, contact your distributor to learn more about the products that are researched-backed to prevent illness and infection in healthcare settings, from the hospital to the athletic training room.


  1. http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2094209