Skin infections like ringworm are some of the more common issues faced by athletes in any sport. Some skin infections can keep the athletes from the field, court or mat of play. In many cases, good sports hygiene and early appropriate at-home intervention can help minimize the interruptions in the athlete’s sport season.
Dr. Erik Stratman, dermatologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System, discusses some of the warning signs that an athlete may be experiencing a communicable skin disease and offers some tips on early recognition, prevention strategies and at home supplemental care tips to get the athlete back to competition as soon as possible.
Since official return-to-play recommendations can change over time, please refer to the current WIAA guidelines for treatment requirements and durations of treatment necessary for an athlete to return to the sport.
Ringworm (tinea infection)
Tinea infection, or ringworm, is a common type of superficial fungus infection of the skin. It’s usually found on the arms but can occur anywhere there has been contact with an infected athlete. Sometimes, these spots can have tiny pustules within the round lesions. Lesions can even occur in the scalp, which can be particularly difficult to manage because the fungus dives down the hair follicle. There are many sources of fungus including pets, cattle or infected close contacts. The lesions are usually scaly, red and round.
Special testing at a medical office can help prove that there is a ringworm infection. Prescribed oral therapy is usually needed to clear scalp infections. Over-the-counter antifungal creams can be effective in managing some early and limited forms of ringworm. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also have a killing effect against most forms of superficial ringworm as well. Scales that shed from the skin lesions are infectious for a long period of time and are the prime cause of spread. Prevention of ringworm includes avoiding sharing items such as hats, shirts, towels or hairbrushes. Launder affected clothing promptly and clean areas where scales might have dropped in higher concentrations.
Contact your primary care provider if you have any additional questions about skin infections.