(CBS) Athletes know they face danger on the playing field. But a new report says locker rooms can be dangerous too, as breeding grounds for skin conditions - including an increasingly common and potentially deadly bacterial infection known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
"Close quarters that promote skin-to-skin contact and bodily secretion contact make athletes particularly vulnerable" to fungal, viral and bacterial conditions, according to the report, issued today by the National Athletic Trainers' Association at its annual convention in Philadelphia.
"MRSA and other skin conditions can be passed along from athlete very quickly, sometimes with fatal consequences," Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaching Association, said in a statement. "So prevention and detection efforts aren't just nice to have. They're imperative."
The paper included several recommendations athletes can take to avoid MRSA and other skin conditions, including frequent hand-washing and showering after sporting events. In addition, the report cautions athletes not to share towels, athletic gear, water bottles, disposable razors or hair clippers. All clothing and equipment should be laundered or disinfected on a daily basis.
In addition, athletes should check their skin every day and seek treatment for anything that looks suspicious.
Kyle Frey, 21, a college wrestler, knows first-hand about the threat posed by MRSA. Last January, he noticed a small "pimple" on his left bicep and thought nothing of it. But within two days the lesion had expanded until it covered his entire bicep. After being diagnosed with MRSA, he spent five days in quarantine at a Philadelphia hospital and was treated with two courses of antibiotics and then had surgery to clean away the infection."The whole experience taught me the importance of prevention and early treatment when it comes to skin infections," Frey said in a written statement. "My athletic trainer, coach and doctors knew immediately what to do."
MRSA is a growing problem in the US. A 2005 study found that there were 368,000 hospital admissions for the infection, resulting in almost 19,000 deaths.
Frey is now back in the ring, facing down opponents who come his way.
But MRSA is one opponent he hopes never to face again.