Preventing Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) Infections in Athletic Facilities: For Coaches and Athletic Directors

Key points

  • MRSA can cause skin infections and other health issues in athletic facilities.
  • Athletic directors and coaches can take steps to prevent MRSA in their facilities and protect athletes.


MRSA spreads fast in athletic facilities, locker rooms, gyms and health clubs because of shared equipment and skin-to-skin contact.

Preventing the spread of MRSA in athletic facilities involves:

  • Maintaining personal hygiene.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting equipment and facilities.
  • Following guidelines for wound care.

How it spreads

MRSA can spread through skin-to-skin contact and by touching contaminated surfaces (places where the germ may live). MRSA can spread in athletic facilities due to shared equipment and close physical contact among athletes.

Prevention steps and strategies

Preventing MRSA is crucial to the health and safety of athletes. It reduces the risk of outbreaks that can lead to more serious issues.

Cleaning and disinfecting

When should I clean athletic equipment and facilities?

  • Always keep athletic facilities and shared equipment clean whether or not MRSA infections have occurred among the athletes.
  • Clean shared equipment after each use and allow to dry before use.
  • Repair or dispose of equipment and furniture with damaged surfaces that do not allow for adequate cleaning.
  • Clean equipment according to manufacturers' instructions to make sure the cleaner will not harm the item.

How do I keep athletic equipment and facilities clean?

  • Review cleaning measures and schedules with the cleaning service staff.
  • Focus on surfaces that come into direct contact with people's bare skin each day.
  • Cleaning with household bleach, detergent-based cleaners or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered detergents/disinfectants will remove MRSA from surfaces. The products effective against Staphylococcus aureus are sufficient to kill MRSA. See the list of EPA-registered products effective against MRSA (List H).

How should I use cleaners and disinfectants?

Cleaners and disinfectants can be irritating. Exposure to these chemicals cause health problems such as asthma and skin and eye irritation.

Before using, make sure you:

  • Wear personal protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection.
  • Follow the instruction labels on all cleaners and disinfectants, including household chlorine bleach. Make sure you use them in a safe and correct way. The label will tell you:
    • How to apply the cleaner or disinfectant.
    • If you need to clean the surface first before applying the disinfectant.
    • If it is safe for the surface. Some cleaners and disinfectants can damage some surfaces.
    • How long you need to leave it on the surface to be effective.
    • If you need to rinse the surface with water after using the cleaner or disinfectant.
  • Dilute chlorine bleach in a safe and effective way. Dilution steps will vary depending on whether you are using commercial 5.25, 6.0, or 8.25% bleach. For products containing 5.25-6.0% bleach, use 1/4 cup of regular household bleach in 1 gallon of water. For products containing 8.25% bleach use 1 oz in a gallon of water for pre-cleaned surfaces.

Does disinfectant spraying or fogging work?

There is little evidence that large-scale use of disinfectants will prevent MRSA infections better than a targeted approach of cleaning surfaces.

Should I use the product to treat an infection?

No. Do not put cleaners and disinfectants onto skin or wounds. Never use them to treat skin infections.

How can I keep MRSA from spreading to surfaces?

Cover wounds to reduce the risks of spreading MRSA to surfaces.

Protecting athletes

If you think an athlete has a skin infection

  • Refer the infected athlete to a healthcare provider.
    • For athletes younger than 18, notify parents/guardians about the possible infection.
  • Athletes with active infections or open wounds should not use public water facilities that aren't cleaned between uses. This includes whirlpools, therapy pools and swimming pools.
  • Educate athletes about ways to prevent spreading the infection.
  • Make sure supplies are available to comply with prevention measures:
    • Soap in showers and at sinks.
    • Bandages for covering wounds.
    • Alcohol-based hand rubs if soap and water are not available.

Preventing infection

Make sure all athletes:

  • Shower after sports activities.
  • Shower before using whirlpools, therapy pools or swimming pools.
  • Wash and dry uniforms after each use.
  • Follow a healthcare provider's advice about when to return to sports and when to use water facilities.
  • Keep wounds covered.
  • Report infections to a healthcare provider or a parent/guardian.

How to prevent spreading the infection

  • Use gloves when caring for broken skin or possible infections. Perform hand hygiene before and after contact with the athlete.
  • Healthcare providers in athletic facilities should use Standard Precautions while providing care.
  • Cover infected wounds on athletes with bandages.
  • To prevent infection, encourage athletes to cover acute, non-infected wounds such as:
    • Cuts
    • Abrasions
    • Blisters
    • Lacerations

Excluding athletes from participation

  • Exclude athletes from activities if wounds cannot be properly covered.
    • "Covered" means to cover with a bandage or dressing that will contain all drainage and remain intact throughout the activity.
    • The athlete should perform good hand hygiene before and after changing bandages. Put used bandages in the trash.
  • A healthcare provider might exclude an athlete if the activity poses a risk to their health even if the infection is covered.
  • Athletes with active infections or open wounds should not use water facilities until infections and wounds heal.

Making a plan

Athletic programs should have a plan in place for regular cleaning and disinfection of facilities and equipment. This includes educating staff and athletes on proper hygiene practices and having protocols for managing wounds and infections.


If an infection is present, it is important to seek medical advice for treatment. MRSA infections often require specific antibiotics, and early treatment can prevent more serious problems.


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