Disinfecting Athletic Facilities

According to the CDC, disinfecting athletic facilities is a critical step in preventing the spread of infectious and potentially deadly germs like MRSA.

At the professional level, the NFL.com reported, "Despite five surgeries to treat a serious staph infection, doctors may need to amputate the foot of New York Giants tight end Daniel Fells. The infection was caused by MRSA, a life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection."

At the high school level, there are an increasing number of MRSA outbreaks occurring in locker rooms, gyms and on the field of play. For example, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine linked MRSA to abrasions caused by artificial turf. Three studies by the Texas State Department of Health found that the infection rate among football players was 16 times the national average. In 1974, MRSA infections accounted for 2% of the total number of staph infections, in 1995 it was 22%, and by 2004, it rose to 63%.

Training staff should ensure proper disinfection of equipment and surfaces.

Athletic facilities create a special risk for spreading infectious diseases such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) because of the potential for skin-to-skin and surface-to-skin contact among athletes.

Cleaning, Sanitizing, Disinfecting: The Differences

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following guidance on the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting:

Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level as judged by public health standards or requirements to lower the risk of spreading infection.

Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Sanitizing and disinfecting require the use of EPA-registered pesticides or disinfecting/sanitizing water-based devices.

Shared equipment that comes into direct skin contact should be cleaned after each use and allowed to dry. Equipment, such as helmets and protective gear, should be cleaned according to the equipment manufacturers’ instructions to make sure the cleaner will not harm the item.

  • Athletic facilities such as locker rooms should always be kept clean whether or not MRSA infections have occurred among the athletes.
  • Review cleaning procedures and schedules with the janitorial/environmental service staff.
  • Cleaning procedures should focus on commonly touched surfaces and surfaces that come into direct contact with people's bare skin each day.
  • Cleaning with detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered detergents/disinfectants will remove MRSA from surfaces.
  • Cleaners and disinfectants, including household chlorine bleach, can be irritating and exposure to these chemicals has been associated with health problems such as asthma and skin and eye irritation.
  • Take appropriate precautions described on the product's label instructions to reduce exposure. Wearing personal protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection may be indicated.
  • Follow the instruction labels on all cleaners and disinfectants, including household chlorine bleach, to make sure they are used safely and correctly.

Source: CDC Website

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