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MMA Gym diseases aka The Heebie Jeebies

If you train, it is inevitable that you will one day encounter some sort of heebie jeebie skin infection. First off, don’t worry. These infections are fairly common, as well as treatable.  However, it is important for athletes to be able to recognize such infections in order to decrease their risk of infection and to prevent the spread of such infections. The skin is your body’s largest organ and protects your insides from the outside world, so take care of it!  Here are some commonly encountered Heebie Jeebies that I hope you never come across!


Ringworm, Athletes Foot, Jock Itch – I am currently sidelined with a case of ringworm.  Ringworm is a common infection on your skin caused by a fungus (not a worm) of the Tinea species.  It affects the outermost layer of your skin.  It is transmitted via skin to skin contact and thrives in moist sweaty environments.  This particular fungus is highly contagious.

Symptoms – This infection is incredibly itchy.  It most commonly appears as a red ring like rash with an area of central clearing. Often characterized by a scaly dandruff like center.

Treatment- Common over the counter anti-fungal ointments can be used to treat the infection if it is on your body, although prescription strength anti-fungal creams can provide faster relief.  I prefer lamisil  out of all of the over the counter topical treatments, use as directed. See your doctor right away if the infection is on your nails, beard, or scalp, as hair follicles provides a way for the fungus to enter the deeper layers of your skin and oral- antifungals are necessary. 


Staphylococcus Aureus – Staphylococcus is a bacteria that is currently alive on about 30% of people’s skin. Damage to the skin can allow the bacteria entry although infection can start with or without skin damage. See a doctor as soon as you suspect this infection, as it will not go away without anti-biotics.   Staphylococcus can present in many different ways and are responsible for diseases such as Impetigo and the dreaded Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) which is extremely dangerous and possibly fatal. 

Symptoms- Superficial infections can lead to an area may become red, swollen, and painful. Watch for crusting of the skin.  If you develop a fever go to the doctor right away as the bacteria may have gotten into your blood.

Treatment-  See a doctor immediately for topical and oral anti-biotics.........


 Unless you want to look like Kevin Randleman


Molluscum Contagiosum- is a contagious viral skin infection. The virus spreads through contact with contaminated objects (towels, clothing) and skin to skin contact. It is also often transmitted by sexual contact.

Symptoms- painless lesions with a little white thing sticking out of them (pearl-like papules). Looks like you stated to pop a whitehead and left the pus sticking out of it.

Prevention- Avoid skin to skin contact with  someone that has these lesions, don’t share towels, your clothes, gear etc with other people. They may not know they are infected.

Treatment- This infection will go away on its own after a few months (or years) but if you want to continue training knowing that you aren’t getting anyone else sick go to the doctor and they will use (ask them to use) a curette to pull the centers out.

Warts- a contagious but usually painless growth caused by a virus called HPV. There are a lot of different strains of the virus.

Symptoms- Painless growth. If on the bottom of the foot (plantar warts) however these can be painful often confused with corns and calluses If pressing on them doesn’t create pain squeeze them sideways to self diagnose. You can also cover the area with a cotton ball soaked in apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes, if the growth turns white it is probably a wart (be careful not to burn yourself as apple cider vinegar is acidic)

Prevention- Avoid skin to skin contact with  someone that has these lesions, don’t share towels, your clothes, gear etc with other people. They may not know they are infected. Wear flip flops around the gym. If you have a wart treat it because they can and often do spread.

Treatment- These often do go away on their own except it could take a very long time. I’ve heard great things about the apple cider vinegar treatment as well as the duct tape treatment both are cheap and effective. The dermatologist can also cut these out of you, freeze them off, or give you a shot of an inactive bacteria (candida) right into the wart to stimulate your immune system to fight the wart off itself. After touching your warts wash your hands. There is currently a vaccine for some genital strains of the virus called gardasil.


Herpes- a contagious viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus (type 1 or type 2) that lives in the nervous system and the body can never fully rid itself of the virus although it can keep it suppressed for a long period of time. The most common types are on the lips (coldsores) Genitals (genital herpes) or in MMA on the face, ears, neck, back, etc (herpes gladiatorum, scrumpox, wrestler’s herpes, mat herpes)

Symptoms-Usually develop a few days after contact with the virus. Painful blisters

Prevention- Avoid skin to skin contact with someone that has these lesions including coldsores/fever blisters, don’t share towels, your clothes, gear etc with other people. They may not know they are infected. Unfortunately there may not be any visible signs of outbreak and this disease may still be transmitted

Treatment- Do not train while you have an outbreak! Although there are a few vaccines being developed they are not available yet. Go to the doctor and get something prescribed also find out if you have type 1 or type 2.

Itchy Legs and Skin after training- When I first started training I used to dread the walk to the subway on my way to work following a night of training. My legs would become so itchy that I would scratch them feverishly in a packed subway car. I found that my dry skin was due to sweating so much during training and not taking in enough water. So dehydration was the culprit!

Prevention - drink more water! avoid harsh soaps and hot showers as they only serve to dehydrate you futher.

Treatment - Drink water, Mosturize afflicted area with a good quality lotion after showering.

CONCLUSION / Prevention-  A proactive approach is key in the prevention of these diseases.  Do not train with people who have these infections.  Any athlete with these infections should abstain from training until the symptoms have completely resolved.  Never walk on the matt with shoes on, don’t walk around barefoot prior to going on the matt, train at a clean gym that washes the matts with disinfectant regularly or even better - after each training session. Hot water and bacteria is known to kill off any bacteria or fungus that may be on your gear.  Therefore, washing your gi/other gear in hot water with bleach and drying it in a drier after every use can also prevent infection. Avoid shaving on training days, as shaving produces tiny abrasions that are perfect homes for incubating infections.  Covering these infections will not prevent them from spreading. Shower immediately after training and tell your trainers if you have any infection most will freeze your membership in order to contain the infection. Remember, if your instructor says don’t worry about or if your training partners continuously train with infections, it may be time to join a new gym.  Stay clean, stay classy!

10/30/2012 3:21:43 PM hammerhousebitch

10/29/2012 8:50:22 PM thePeoplesJabroni
This is an awesome article, this should be a must read for anyone that trains. I can't tell u how many times i have come across guys that have stuff and just continue to train bc of ignorance. Most schools will freeze ur account until you heal if you catch one of these. Do the right thing ppl!

3/6/2012 7:03:40 PM Ninjajaja
Nicely written. Some scary/gross stuff out there. My defense soap and antimicrobial rashguard have been doing me right


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