Reducing Training Room Bacteria Helps Curb MRSA, Influenza

University Hospitals Sports Medicine

MRSA, an infection caused by a strain of bacteria that are resistant to certain antibiotics, is a constant concern in training centers, wrestling rooms and martial arts dojos, among other facilities in which athletes come in contact with mats and other surfaces. Staph is the infection most often associated with these situations, but there are a variety of MRSAs that are particularly troublesome because of their resistance to most antibiotics.

The best solution is, of course, prevention. To that end, Cleveland-based University Hospitals Sports Medicine researchers, in partnership with GOJO – the inventor of Purell hand sanitizer, found that an Infection Risk Reduction Program implemented in participating athletic training rooms reduced the overall amount of bacteria present by 95%, including completely eliminating the presence of influenza and multidrug-resistant organisms, such as MRSA.

Fordham U. Sports Medicine

The study, published in the January 2020 issue of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) national publication Sports Health, concluded that a program that modifies hygiene behavior by connecting products, people and education can yield impactful infection control results and benefits.

“Our protocol was based upon principles used in the athletic training rooms in the National Football League and healthcare hygiene best practices. Our simplified protocol proved effective and provides a foundation for preventing infections in student-athletes at the collegiate and high school level not only locally, but across the country,” said co-author Mark LaBelle, MD, University Hospitals Orthopedic Surgery.

Kent State University

The infection control program was piloted at two high schools and two colleges in Northeast Ohio, including Kent State University. Kent State Associate Athletic Director Trent Stratton said everything they do in their athletic training room revolves around the health and safety of student-athletes. “Even though we may think we’re doing a good job keeping the facility clean, having the stats to support it is extremely beneficial. At the end of the day, an infection can destroy a season,” he said.

Rolles Gracie (Credit: ISO Tired Photography)

Student-athletes are in close contact in the shared environment of an athletic training room, and in the presence of poor hygiene and contamination, can be exposed to a variety of germs that cause infection.

For the study, hand hygiene solutions (varous Purell products) and a broad-spectrum one-step surface disinfectant spray were strategically placed throughout the athletic training rooms. Providing proven products and directing proper placement alone resulted in over 60% reduction in total bacteria.

After implementing a comprehensive solution that includes disinfectant products, protocols and educational resources, the participating athletic training rooms experienced a 95% reduction in total bacteria. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, specifically MRSA and Vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE), which were found on 24% of surfaces in the training room at the beginning of the study, were eliminated by the end of the study. Additionally, influenza which was initially detected on 25% of the analyzed surfaces, such as front door handles, drawer handles, water bottle lids and water cooler nozzles, was eliminated on surfaces sampled after implementation of the program.

Gymnasts (credit: Gojo US)

“This study shows that the combination of targeted cleaning, ideal product placement, and simple education plus tools, along with the trusted strength of Purell products, can significantly reduce pathogens and the risk of infection among athletes and staff,” said Jim Arbogast, Ph.D., Vice President, Hygiene Sciences and Public Health Advancements, GOJO – inventor of Purell hand sanitizer. “Together, athletes, athletic trainers, athletic directors, and facility managers can sustain a safe environment, keeping athletes healthy and in the game. While this study looked at specific athletic training rooms, these same protocols can be applied beyond, into other areas of the athletic campus frequented by student-athletes, like locker rooms and weight rooms.”

James Voos (Credit University Hospitals, Cleveland)

“This collaborative study between University Hospitals Sports Medicine and GOJO demonstrates how organizations committed to the health and safety of athletes can develop innovative, scientifically proven programs that can be practically applied to all sports and levels of competition, in particular close contact sports such as wrestling, hockey, gymnastics, soccer or football – where athletes experience greater incidence of infection,” said James Voos, MD, lead physician for the Cleveland Browns and Division Chief, UH Sports Medicine.

Avatar for Jerry Milani
Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at jerry (at) jerrymilani (dot) com.