There may be two months of summer left on the calendar but schools are already gearing up for fall sports. Athletic fields are filled with football, baseball and soccer players getting a jump on the season. They'll soon be joined by field hockey players, cross country runners and wrestlers. While late summer practices do a body good, fall athletes track added dirt, grime and potentially dangerous germs in to your facility. Is your janitorial staff ready to ramp up their locker room cleaning protocol?
The Danger is More Than Skin Deep
Responsible locker room cleaning is about more than looking or smelling good. Poorly-maintained areas may harbor nuisances like tinea pedis (athlete's foot), more serious viruses like Herpes Gladiatorum (mat herpes) or potentially deadly microbes like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
The CDC states that over 80,000 invasive MRSA infections and 11,285 related deaths occur each year. The superbug is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact or through contaminated personal items and spreads easily in close quarters like locker rooms. Athletes who play contact sports like wrestling or football are at an increased risk. The NFL's battle with MRSA in their locker rooms is well documented, but colleges and high schools face the same challenges.
Herpes Gladiatorum, or mat herpes, is one of the most common infections caused by personal contact during athletic activity, according to WebMD. The rash appears a few days after contact and can be accompanied by headache, fever, chills, sore throat, swollen glands and painful eyes. After the initial outbreak the virus goes dormant, only to resurface during times of physical and emotional stress.
In 2016 California high school wrestler Blake Flovin urged officials to delay state championships after he contracted the virus, blaming unclean conditions. 'The kids were walking in there with their wrestling shoes, then straight out of the bathroom and onto the mats. Kids' faces were shoved into the mats where those feet were,' Flovin told the San Jose Mercury News. 'It's disgusting.'
The Clean Team
The Center for Disease Control offers clear protocols on cleaning for MRSA. They suggest focusing on touch points and any common surface that comes in contact with bare skin, noting that exposure to cleaners and disinfectants like chlorine bleach can be irritating to the cleaning staff. The Minnesota Department of Health addresses the spread of Herpes gladiatorum in the locker room by suggesting cleaning and disinfecting locker rooms and shower areas every day.
Click here for more tools and tips for locker room cleaning.
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Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.