If you follow all of the 5 Basic Rules for hygiene in the Jiu Jitsu academy, hopefully you will never have to deal with staph or ringworm from BJJ.
Dealing With 2 Of The Most Common Skin Infections
There are some important rules to follow to avoid the skin infections that occur when training Jiu Jitsu. If you have, or even think you have something odd going on with your skin, DON’T train until you get it checked out. The close contact in Jiu Jitsu turns something “minor” into a gym wide “epidemic” very fast. Just “covering it up” isn’t good enough! Promote good hygiene in the Jiu Jitsu academy by keeping nastiness from spreading.
Note: I am not a doctor, I am just attempting to pass on some of the knowledge passed around the Jiu Jitsu community on these topics. Staph or ringworm from BJJ should be rare if proper hygiene is followed, but it is a risk all practitioners should know about. See your doctor for accurate treatment and diagnosis!
Important concept: Good and bad bacteria both live on our skins. The good bacteria helps keep the bad bacteria in check so using disinfectant soaps can actually weaken a skin’s defense over time.
Ringworm from BJJ
I have actually had ringworm from BJJ once in my journey and I can say definitively it was my fault and not my gym’s. I wanted to train and realized I had forgotten to wash my gear and broke Rule 3 and wore dirty compression shorts. Two days later I had an itchy rash on my leg and had to take time off to recover.
“Ringworm is a common fungal skin infection otherwise known as tinea. Ringworm most commonly affects the skin on the body (tinea corporis), the scalp (tinea capitis), the feet (tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot), or the groin (tinea cruris, or jock itch).” – Web MD
So basically if you have had dandruff or athlete’s foot you have had a version of ringworm. It isn’t fun, but it isn’t the end of the world either.
The biggest part of prevention is just cleanliness. Keeping mats and clothing clean is huge. Follow the tips for good hygiene in the Jiu Jitsu academy which I listed above.
1.) Wrestlers have used dandruff shampoo as a body wash to deal with ringworm for ages. Just use it like you would shower gel to wash your whole body. This helps keep the fungus in check before it can take hold. I don’t shower with dandruff shampoo every time, but if I cross trained at a gym or with a partner that isn’t as clean as I would like I always use it. Since I have started doing this I haven’t had any outbreaks of ringworm from BJJ, even after training with infected persons (NOT RECOMMENDED!).
Pro Tip: Buy some Dandruff Shampoo to keep in your shower. When you need it, it is too late to try to go buy it.
2.) Carefully and thoroughly dry off after showers. Fungus like damp places, so areas like armpits, between toes that can retain moisture can help cultivate growth if other conditions are right.
3.) Some people (Eddie Bravo included) swear by Acidophilus as a way to boost the abilities of the good bacterias in your body to fight against bad invaders. Acidophilus has also been shown to
help with digestive health and is pretty cheap, so couldn’t hurt right?
Ringworm From BJJ Treatment
Since ringworm is essentially a version of athlete’s foot, athlete’s foot medicine can be a very effective over the counter way to treat it. The key is to use Lamisil which is designed to clear it up in about 5 days, and not Lotrimin which takes around 30 days! Why take 30 days off from BJJ if you could get away with only missing a week?!
If you are diagnosed with ringworm, it is only polite to contact any training partners you recently trained with who you could have potentially infected so they can keep an eye out for any symptoms which can take a week to manifest.
Staph infections strike terror in the heart of the Jiu Jitsu community. If you even suspect you have a staph infection, see a doctor as soon as possible. This can be easily spread and can develop into MRSA the antibiotic monster version of staph that rots through your skin like a brown recluse bite. Don’t mess around with Staph!! Much like ringworm, staph can seem to infest an entire gym if proper treatment and good hygiene in the jiu jitsu academy principles are not followed. Take care of it, and let the gym owner know so the academy can be deep cleaned as well.
In my experience with Jiu Jitsu, staph seems to manifest most often as ingrown hairs or odd pimples. These can become very painful very quickly. Take care of these, and keep a close eye on them. Know your body, so you know what is abnormal and wasn’t there yesterday.
Micro cuts from things like shaving, increase the chance of infection, because each cut is a possible entry point for the infection.
Some grapplers swear by Hibiclens, the antibacterial soap they have you use before surgeries, to clean up after coming into contact with scary stuff.
Regularly deep cleaning a gym is a good way to minimize the risk of outbreaks.
Listen, if you think you have staph see a doctor. Seriously. Like right now. No more Web MD. You can read this blog from the waiting room. What are you waiting for?