We all love training BJJ, even though it is a close contact sport. The biggest issue, because of the close contact training partners we have with each other, is that this can allow skin infections to occur. Skin infections are not a regular occurrence by any means, but they can happen, and a few tips to protect yourself can help you reduce the chance of you being exposed to the true cost of bad BJJ hygiene.
Staph and ringworm are probably the two most common infections that yon will hear about in the gym, so these are the ones I’m going to focus on.
Ringworm unlike the name suggests is no an actual worm, but a skin fungus that is really contagious and spreads from contact. You do not have to have had direct contact with someone who is contagious. If someone has ringworm and places the infected area on the mats, or another training surface that you come in contact with, you run the risk of infection. Ringworm will usually develope into a red circular area that itches and begins to lose hair, which if gone untreated will continue to grow in diameter. If you did not already realize, you cannot train with Ringworm! It is really contagious and easily passed on. If you notice a spot on your skin and are not sure if it is ringworm, always ask your instructor! Ringworm, however, can be treated with either an anti fungal cream, tablets or a shampoo.
Staph infections can potentially be more serious than ringworm. The staph virus can live on your skin without you even being aware of it. It only becomes a problem when the bacteria gets into a break or cut in the skin. That is another reason why breaks in your skin should be kept covered. Depending how deep it goes, the impact of the infection will vary. Ultimately you will be either looking at a skin or soft tissue infection such as impetigo or cellulitis. These are serious and can be painful, but not as serious if the bacteria manages to become invasive. Then, it has the potential to become septicaemia (blood poisoning), septic arthritis (joint infection) or endocarditis (infection of the lining of the heart)
So yes, these are potentially nasty, life threatening infections to catch.
Besides the actual medical issues that are caused by these infections, there are the day to day issues, too. You will lose training time and potentially money for the lost training fees. It could also effect your family, too. You will have to be careful when holding or hugging partner or children. Along with a lot of linen washing. Plus, if it is a serious enough staph type infection, it could also affect your ability to work!
The steps for preventing these infections are incredibly simple:
1. Shower. I know this sounds like common sense, but showering as soon as you finish practice as possible is the key. Do not go get something to eat, sit on the couch, or go shopping until you’ve had a chance to wash.
2. No open cuts! Even if it is a simple scratch, you need to cover them up. Imagine if someone started to bleed and you had an open wound. Even if you need to use duct tape (which I have done) cover it over completely during training and use disinfectant to clean the wound after practice.
3. Make sure you ‘’body wash’’ is antibacterial. Save the sweet smelling ones for when you want to smell good. After training stick to one that will protect you from infection. There are many of these that include ingredients like tea tree oil, or citrus oils if you don’t like the idea of chemicals.
4. Clean your uniform after each use. The bacteria and fungus can still feed and grow on your dirty training gear, so get it cleaned as soon as possible. If you wash your kit at a low temperature you may also want to consider an antibacterial detergent too.
5. Don’t be selfish and ignore any signs of infection. With staph, ringworm and any other mat nasties they can quickly spread to the entire class if you are not careful. If you notice something and you never had it before, ask your instructor! Getting things checked out as soon as possible will get you back into training as fast as possible. Prevention is always the best option.
Bad BJJ hygiene can easily lead to an infections and the consequences that go with them can be extremely serious. Keep clean, show respect to your tream and keep training.