Participating in any sport has an inherent risk of injury, but intelligent practitioners mitigate that risk by eating well, warming up properly and using correct form.
For grapplers, there is also the risk of skin disease, which unfortunately often goes unaddressed (particularly in the first few months of training). If the appropriate steps are not taken, the skin to skin contact of BJJ, wrestling and MMA can result in an increased risk contracting: Ringworm, Impetigo, Staph, Herpes and a host of other nasty things that nobody wants anywhere near them.
Whilst there are a plethora of cures for most problems, prevention should always be in the forefront of our minds.
Firstly, and I can’t stress this enough, DON’T train when you are unwell (or think you are unwell). There is nothing worse than having your training partner end the roll by saying ‘I don’t think I am infectious’, ‘No I haven’t gotten it checked out yet, but it should be alright’ or ‘I am wearing a rash guard, so there is no risk to you’.
Just don’t be that guy. Rather than risk infecting the club, stay at home an extra few days and heal up. Get the rash checked out and take your meds. Remember that training is a long-term hobby: missing one week won’t kill you, but spreading an infection will give you a bad reputation, one that you will never live down.
Secondly, keep clean. Wash your gear after each training session. Yes, all of it. If it touches skin, or gets sweat on it, it is a breeding ground for bacteria. Make sure to regularly air out and clean your gym bag. If you use a public shower or toilet, wear thongs on your feet.
Make sure that before training you are clean and maintain good hygiene, and importantly after your sessions, that you wash yourself thoroughly as quickly as feasible. The longer you wait, the more of a build-up of bacteria, and thus the more risk of it getting through the protective layers of your skin.
Thirdly, check that your gym’s facilities are clean. For grapplers, in particular, the cleanliness of the mat is vital. A clean gym should have a strict ‘shoes on when off the mat and no shoes on the mat’ policy and should regularly sweep, mop and sanitise the mats. There is something distinctly repulsive about realising that people are bringing the germs from their shoes (think of where you have walked today) and placing it where you will soon be putting your head.
Read more on preventing skin disease here
A word on soap.
Make sure to use antibacterial soap (otherwise what’s the point?), and ensure that it is used after each training session. Like the gut, the skin has a plethora of good bacteria on it that if depleted can be harmful to your health. Soap with tea tree oil can help, or you could go for a branded soap like 'Defense Soap'. They specifically tailor their products towards grapplers taking a “unique approach by developing a soap that keeps your normal skin flora balanced therefore keeping it stronger and enabling it to protect you from infection”.
Their website is a useful resource, check it out for more on skin health, prevention and treatments.
Stay clean, and share this with your training partners.
Zachary Phillips - Zimmah Muscle Therapy