A little hygeine can go a long way in Grappling.
The Free Dictionary describes a vector as:
2. Pathology: An organism,
such as a mosquito or tick, that carries disease-causing microorganisms from one
host to another.
3. Genetics: A
bacteriophage, plasmid, or other agent that transfers genetic material from one
cell to another.
4. A force or
While studying Horticulture at BYU I learned all about vectors as
they pertained to plant diseases. I learned the importance of keeping pruning
and planting tools clean. I learned that insects, wind and rain could be
classified as vectors in regards to having the potential to spread disease to
other plants. I learned that cultural practices could either help prevent or
promote the spread of plant disease.
There are vectors all around us.
In the grappling world there are also vectors. We encounter them
every day on the mat. The dirty gi. A dirty mat. The athlete who unknowingly or
knowingly trains while having a skin infection. The gym owner or coach who
doesn’t take mat care seriously. All of these are vectors of bacteria, viruses
On the mat you may come across ringworm, herpes gladiatorum,
impetigo and even staph all of which are highly contagious and without proper
prevention, diagnosis or treatment they can stop your grappling or your gym in
its tracks. Many skin infections can often go unnoticed and athletes that have
them can easily skirt around good etiquette and spread them to others.
Competitions are even more sketchy because of the sheer quantity of athletes
present, dubious mat cleanliness and other factors.
In my experience gi players (Judo and Jiu Jitsu) are not nearly
as concerned as their no gi cousins (wrestlers and grapplers) because their skin
rarely leaves its gi shell. This is a false sense of security. I have had more
problems with staph when training at Judo dojos than any other facility type!
While my gear and person were clean the facilities and other athletes were not.
Gi's are great places for bacteria to hide. Avoid falling into the trap of gi
Skin infections can generally be recognized as an area of
irritation on the skin. My general rule of thumb is this:
Does it itch, burn or sting?
If so it’s most likely a skin infection or one in early stages.
You should monitor the area and schedule an appointment with a dermatologist as
soon as possible. Regular doctors are ok but sometimes make faulty diagnosis
where skin infection is concerned. If you cannot see a dermatologist tell your
doctor exactly what you do, what you may be exposed to as a grappler and go from
there. I have found communicating in this manner leads to better chances of a
more serious exam and a prescription to solve the problem.
You may notice different and distinct signs for each type of
Ringworm is usually a round red circle or raised area on the
skin. It will appear as an ‘angry’ red color and itch in the extreme. Ringworm
is the easiest to care for and cure. Lamasil is my favorite over the counter
anti-fungal cream. It usually takes a week to ten days to clear up.
Herpes gladiatorum (cold sore type infections) can show up on the
face, head and sometimes exposed neck and back. It will itch, burn and sting.
Impetigo shows up as red pustules often on the face, neck or back
and sometimes other areas. It will itch, burn and sting.
Staph usually shows up as a large boil or ‘run away zit’.This is
the most dangerous and one of the easiest to overlook. Sometimes it may be
painful, other times it may go unnoticed. Staph infections can be life
threatening. Great care should be taken with any skin infection but especially
I strongly recommend against any ‘natural’ or homeopathic
remedies for any skin infection. There are way too many variables in those
types of treatments and I have yet to see them work successfully. Especially
where staph is concerned you do not have time to waste on a ‘natural’ cure.
As with all illnesses you should consult your physician before
pursuing any treatment. The examples and experiences given here are for
illustrative purposes only.
“A pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The better
preventative care you can take to avoid skin infections the better. At the gym
you should request that you be part of the solution. Ask to clean the mats.
Demand that the gym owner and instructors provide a clean and safe environment
in which to train. Keep your gear and your body clean. Wash your gi after each
use. Keep your finger and toe nails trimmed up and clean and
Most schools are on an every-other day schedule, this should give
more than enough time to wash your gi’s and equipment. If you can afford it have
enough clean workout gear so that you can wear a clean outfit every time you go
to class. When you go to tournaments take a box of baby wipes, hand sanitizer or
skin sanitizer so that you can use it between bouts. You can also do this after
each grappling session if your school does not have showers available. Shower as
soon as possible after training.
Keep your skin healthy by eating nutritious foods, taking your
vitamins and getting enough sleep. Lotion can help dry skin. Use lotion after
showering per manufacturer recommendations.
Gym owners and instructors can require the lower belt students to
perform mat detail. It only takes about 10 minutes to properly clean a mat and
should be done on a daily basis. Mats should be swept clean of dust and debris
and then disinfected through use of a designated mop that is used only on mat
surfaces. Do not mop floors, restrooms etc. with the same broom and mop that you
use on the mats!
Mat cleanliness should be of utmost concern because not only does
it help your student’s health and training it keeps you safe from complaints and
possible legal action. All it takes is one bad strain of staph to show up and
you might find yourself losing students or worse.
Instructors and coaches should encourage athletes that are
infected to sit on the side lines rather than be on the mats. Post a gym
hygiene requirement. Give incentives for helping keep things clean. Most of all
be a responsible leader and instructor.
We owe it to each other and ourselves to be conscientious of skin
infection. We won’t ever be able to eliminate them completely but through sound
preventative practices and knowing what’s out there you can avoid most potential
Here are some great sources for grappling hygiene products and
Athletic Body Care
Kennedy Industries – Kenshield