How can the wrestling world defeat the ringworm skin infections that are so costly to wrestlers and wrestling programs? A research review, published more than 20 years ago in Sports Medicine, framed the problem of ringworm skin infections in wrestling like this:
“Tinea corporis, or ringworm, has become a common nuisance in competitive wrestling. Although it is a fairly benign infectious skin disease, it has significant effects on the ability of a wrestler to compete because of infection control issues.”
“Wrestling has been losing its battle with this formidable opponent.”
The Ultimate Goal: Eradicating Ringworm From Wrestling
While the authors of the review, associated with the U.S. Air Force, underscored the fact that more research was needed to clarify ringworm prevention and treatment, they didn’t shy away from what the heart of the problem was.
“The ultimate goal is the eradication of tinea infections from the wrestling world,” they wrote.
Making Skin Infection Prevention a Wrestling Priority
Today, skin-to-skin combat sports like wrestling continue to struggle with ringworm.
Tom Kuisle, with nearly half a century of experience in coaching and officiating wrestling in Minnesota, said that while most wrestling teams that he observed were proactive in preventing skin infections, that wasn’t always the case.
"In general, most teams seem to put this as a priority, but there seems to be a few teams — the same teams — that don’t put as much priority on controlling skin issues," he said.
“Hygiene in the sport of wrestling is one of the many things we can control, so why would we ignore this?”
Steve Costanzo, the longtime head coach of the St. Cloud State wrestling team, once expressed his frustration with a problem that he felt could be controlled with basic disciplines.
"With all of the potential mat diseases that exist within our sport, it can be detrimental to not only the health of the individuals competing, but the sport itself," Costanzo said.
5 Simple Steps to Prevent Ringworm
There are simple, common habits that wrestlers can adopt to mitigate the likelihood of getting infected by ringworm.
USA Wrestling has published a complete informational guide for wrestlers, coaches, trainers, and parents on skin infections in wrestling.
“We spend so much time on smart training, but all that hard work is jeopardized if infection invades your team.”
The guide emphasizes how critical it is for every parent, coach, and physician working in wrestling to be aware of which ringworm signs to look for, and the appropriate action to take if an issue is suspected.
The following five hygiene habits are crucial for all wrestlers.
1. After a practice or a match, hit the showers ASAP.
Within 30 minutes of finishing practice or a match, be in the shower.
2. Wash your hands throughout the day.
This one is a good basic hygiene habit in general.
3. Change your workout clothes and socks daily.
This includes cleaning your gym bag. Also, be sure not to share any of your equipment with other wrestlers.
4. Treat your scrapes and cuts.
Again, the basics: Keep a cut clean, apply first aid, and cover up any skin lesions with an appropriate bandage.
5. Perform skin checks daily, and communicate any issues.
Give yourself a daily self-check, looking for any skin issues. Report any lesions, redness of the skin, or itchiness to your coach or trainer.
The Spartan Home Remedy for Ringworm
Communicating with a medical professional is key when it comes to diagnosing and treating ringworm.
That said, anecdotal evidence suggests that one especially potent home remedy for ringworm is a simple solution. It consists of just two everyday products that you can find in your kitchen cabinet.
First, make a paste out of sea salt and a bit of water. Then, add apple cider vinegar. Dab a cotton ball in the solution and apply it to the infected area three times per day.