These infectious diseases are a hidden risk in kids’ sports

Participating in organized sports can bring plenty of health benefits for children and teens, but it also comes with certain risks, including the spread of infectious diseases.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new guidelines on on the risk factors to look out for, as well as tips to help prevent these infections and advice on how to treat them when they occur.

“Joining an athletic team is a fun, physically challenging and healthy way for kids to practice teamwork and sportsmanship, but they do need to understand the importance of good hygiene,” H. Dele Davis, MD, lead author of the report and member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

The most common sports-related infections are spread by skin-to-skin contact with athletes who have infections, or by sharing equipment or contact with contaminated items like towels.

That’s why athletic trainer Anais Mixson makes sure the mats at Neptune High School in New Jersey are wiped clean with an antibacterial every night.

“If we don’t take the proper precautions, if we skip steps, that’s where were going to see athletes who will have infections that could possibly last them the rest of their life,” she told CBS News.

Some of the culprits Mixson worries about include MRSA — or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” — herpes, and athlete’s foot.

According to the AAP, sports-related skin infections spread by contact are associated with 10 to 15 percent of time-loss injuries among college athletes.

Infections are especially common in close contact sports, such as football and wrestling.

Experts say student athletes also need to learn proper hygiene to reduce the risk. They should wipe down equipment before and after every use and never share personal items like water bottles, mouth guards, and towels.

“We want to bring focus to the doctor in the office, the athlete and the parent and to the people who are running sporting events,” said Dr. Stephen Rice, director of sports medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

The report also stresses that student athletes should be up to date on immunizations.

From the gym to the locker room, Mixson said her school is doing everything it can to keep germs at bay.

“If they’re not going home and showering after practice, or they’re not washing their workout clothes, then those are the things that are going to spread infections,” she said.