This is a guest post from Steve Brandon, Vice President of the IV7 Doctors Group

Athletes are some of the most fit people in our society.  They train hard, pay attention to nutrition, and seem to be less susceptible to illness.  So, it stands to reason, they should be less concerned than say, children, the elderly or people in hospitals about becoming ill, right?  Not so fast.

While that may have been the case in the past, a new category of pathogens called “Superbugs” have arrived and they do not discriminate.  In other words, it’s time for athletes to understand what is happening.  They need to do all they can to keep from becoming infected at the least, or worst case, a casualty.

From the time we were kids, if we felt bad enough, Mom or Dad would take us to see the doctor.  The doctor would come in, look down our throats, in our ears, listen to our heartbeat and breathing, thump us a few times and say uh huh.  Then, with full encouragement from Mom or Dad, the doctor would scratch out a prescription for antibiotics that no one could read except the pharmacist.

We would go by the pharmacy, then home, start on our antibiotics, take them for three or four days, feel better, and then stop taking them—maybe even thinking we will save a few of these for the next time we feel bad, so we can save ourselves another trip to the doctor.  A few months later, you started to feel bad again, the in home parental diagnosis was made, the remaining pills were pulled out, and you started taking them again just like before.  Problem solved.

Actually, problem created.  It turns out the pathogens or bugs are living organisms with the ability to resist being killed by the antibiotics.  While some bugs are killed by antibiotics, others survive and mutate.  Today, we call these surviving antibiotic-resistant bugs “Superbugs."  German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said in his book, Twilight of the Idols, “what does not destroy me, makes me stronger.”  Believe me, the “Superbugs” have all read his book!

Fortunately for us though, in the late 1500’s, another elder statesman, Sir Francis Bacon, had something important to say.  Bacon said, “Knowledge is power."  If the medical community is having a problem treating this condition, and they are, then we must change the course of treatment to include an additional concept, prevention.

Sounds simple enough, even good, but as a society, we are not much into prevention.  For example, if you have a bump on your leg that looks like an insect bite, then tomorrow you wake up and it looks like a golf ball, you head for treatment, hopefully!  Prevention on the other hand, requires addressing a thing that you cannot see; in fact, you do not even know if it has arrived yet.  We are busy, and have things to do.  Who has time for or interest in preventing?  We will wait for tangible evidence—a clear sighting of a problem—then go for treatment.

Prevention requires diligent personal hygiene—things like washing your hands thoroughly with soap and encouraging others to do the same.  Showering totally and properly is also important and then there is disinfecting.  It turns out these “Superbugs” can attach themselves to a door knob or push plate, shower stall, the table where the taping is done, the list goes on and on.  They can survive there, waiting for your arrival and then you touch.  Now they are happy to attach to you. 

If you have a cut or sore, even one that is hardly visible to the eye, perhaps a scrape around the cuticle of your fingernail and the “Superbug” finds it, then you can be invaded.  They love it when you touch your nose or put your fingers to your face or mouth, more openings for entry.  It makes more sense to try and kill these pathogens before you come in contact with them at critical touch points. 

Hoping you get lucky and somehow avoid them or assuming it will not happen to you is not a strategy; it is a dangerous gamble.   What are these “Superbugs”?  MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureas is the most well known and talked about.  It is a type of Staph bacteria found on the skin and in the nose that is resistant to antibiotics.  There are numerous others:  VRE, C. diff, and other forms of Staph.  This list is long and growing longer unfortunately, as new “Superbugs” are continuing to emerge and threaten.

As you look into this further and do some reading, the term HAI or Hospital-Acquired Infections will be used often.  While MRSA infections are most commonly seen in the form of hospital Staph infections, it has moved out into the community.  In fact, a new acronym has been coined, CAI, which stands for Community-Acquired Infections.  MRSA has found its way into locker rooms, weight rooms, and training facilities.  Athletes have been affected at all levels and in virtually every sport. 

NBA Star and former Duke Blue Devil Grant Hill is one example of a high-profile athlete who was forced to fight off a potentially career ending and even life threatening bout with MRSA.  He lost considerable playing time and was even concerned he might not return at all.  He has been an outstanding spokesperson to create awareness about this dangerous "Superbug."  Grant has done public service announcements (see video below) and continues to encourage athletes and the general public to be aware and vigilant in this battle. 
Hopefully, we have your attention and you will do some reading, educate yourselves, and be diligent.  Below are 5 quick prevention tips.
  1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap several times a day.
  2. Shower immediately after practice and games.
  3. Do not share items, soap, towels, razors, clothing or shoes.
  4. Bandage or tape any open wounds/sores, and ask teammates to do the same.  Ask trainers/managers to help.
  5. Clean and disinfect critical touch surfaces in your own personal space from time to time. New safer, nontoxic products are available and easy to use. Again, ask your trainers/managers to supply these for you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has its own section devoted to prevention information and advice for athletes.

Attached are three links to articles.  Please click on them and see more about “Superbugs.”  You can also Google the term or others from this article and you will see that there are many, many entries for you to look at including more than a few heart wrenching, personal accounts of people, including athletes, who have had first-hand experiences.

If you have questions, comments or would like additional information, please contact Steve Brandon, IV7 Doctors Group, at or 1-800-625-9950.