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The Definitive Guide to Not Getting a BJJ Staph Infection

Getting a BJJ staph infection could just be the worst thing that could happen to you during training. Picture this: it’s Wednesday night Muay Thai. You’re on the mats, you have done your warm-up, your wraps are on, and as always, it’s a packed house. Mitch, our TFC trainer, yells out, “We are just going to start by doing a few minutes of clinch sparring!”

You pair up with the closest person. Luckily, they have all the gear and are roughly your size. Perfect! They will know what they are doing. Then training begins and your partner initiates the clinch. And finally, it hits you: a smell so foul you taste the nutritious energy drink and four N’ twenty you smashed at lunch.

“Did this person soak their gear in a bucket of week-old roadkill and then keep it in their boot for a week?” Unsurprisingly, you can’t focus on anything but the stench and strategize to get fresh air breathers. You fall for every sweep set up on purpose for the next few minutes.

Training ends, you go home, have a quick rinse off in the shower, and go to bed. Five days later, you notice a red bumpy rash the size of a dollar coin on your arm. Oh no, please, God, don’t let it be… You got STAPH!

I know what you are thinking; “Jake, you’re being so dramatic. I have been training for years and never once got Staph”. Yes, fine, OK, you got me. I am dramatic, and if you’ve ever seen me after doing assault bikes, you already know this. But did you also know that 1 in 3 perfectly healthy people have Staphylococcus Aureus? You really would want to get a BJJ staph infection and be part of this statistic.

It’s not surprising, given it’s a bacterium that makes up a large percentage of normal human microflora. Now I bet you’re wondering, “if it’s so common, how come I haven’t gotten a Staph infection yet?” A fair question!

Staph is not usually a problem when simply present on the skin. However, when Staph enters through breaks in the skin, then you’ve got a problem.

Think of all the mat burns, scratches, cuts, and grazes that are common in combat sports. Any minor cut gives Staph the chance to enter the bloodstream and cause some serious damage. Don’t believe me?

Want to see the damage that a BJJ Staph infection can cause an elite combat athlete? Google “Kevin Randleman Staph” or “Mark Hunt Staph.” I hope you’re not squeamish! These are two of the worst cases I can think of, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

LINKS FOR THE LAZY

Kevin Randleman Staph Infection
Mark Hunt Staph Infection

But fear not! Because TFC has your back! Here you will find our definitive guide to avoiding Staph infections while training Muay Thai, Boxing or BJJ at TFC!

  • Cut your nails

    Less cuts = less ways to get a Staph infection!

    This is pretty self-explanatory. If we reduce cuts, we reduce the chances of getting a BJJ staph infection. Cutting your nails also ensures you don’t keep Staph and Strep as pets under your nails!

  • Cover all open wounds

    Cover all cuts, bumps and mat burns must before training. We know things happen during training, but that’s no excuse. There are band-aids and bandages available at reception for those cases.

    Pro tip: Make sure the covering is secure! There’s no point putting a band-aid on if it’s stuck to your rolling partner’s foot two seconds later. I recommend strapping tape over the top. 

  • Wash your damn hands

    Do this before and immediately after training! This way, you can avoid introducing Staph to the mats or taking Staph home with you. If you can’t read the diagrams on how to wash your hands, ask one of our friendly team members, and they will read it for you.

    Just don’t ask Raf. It’s taking him months to finish Cat in the Hat. (So please, no spoilers!)

  • Never train in dirty gear

    Hey man, don’t do this. Your dark, humid gym bag is the perfect environment for Staph to multiply!

    Last training session your gear got all sweaty, it’s probably covered in bacteria (including Staph). Then you chucked it in your gym bag and left it, giving Staph plenty of time to grow all over everything. Now you’re wearing it again and once you start sweating; you’re treating your training partners to a move I call the Staph sprinkler.

  • Bring a towel

    It’s like my boy Towelie said, “Don’t forget to bring a towel!”.

    If you have Staph on your skin, you have Staph in your sweat. Wherever your sweat ends up, so too does the Staph. Bring a towel to wipe up excess sweat between drills to avoid it pooling on the mats, your partner, or in your car seat on your way home. If your car smells like your gym bag even when it’s not in the car, I got news for you, bro. You are driving a petri dish.

    Pro tip: Avoid having a smelly gym bag by using a waterproof bag for your dirty gear and towel. A plastic bag will do! If your gym bag does stink, wash it!

  • Wash your gear straight after training

    You should be washing your gear as soon as you get home after training. No throwing it all wet and sweaty in your laundry basket or on your floor! You’re just letting all the nasties multiply and colonise your house, you filthy animal.

    Get home, go straight to the washing machine and chuck all your apparel. Then wash it on HOT! It’s not the dishes. Don’t put it in a sink of cold water and tell yourself you will get it to it tomorrow. Staph can survive temperatures as cold as -10 degrees. Also, don’t sit on your couch or bed in sweaty, dirty gear. You will likely be giving Staph to everyone you live with.

    Hot means 60 degrees or more.

    If you are going to soak it again, do it in a bucket of HOT water. Other options include adding an antibacterial detergent or vinegar to the water. (Be warned: this could make your clothes smell strongly of vinegar, so wash them after as well.)

    Laundry Saloon, Laundry, Person

  • Clean your gear

    ALL your gear – Gloves, shinnies, hand-wraps and your gym bag!

    Use the wipes available at the gym. Wipe your gear down inside and out, and when you get home, put them in an area that gets sunlight and air them out. Sunlight kills bacteria. Secure the Velcro back on your gloves so they are open, and you shouldn’t have any issues.

    We have so many wipes at the gym now due to COVID. Everyone has been doing a great job wiping the pads down, so do this with your gear too.

    Some people use anti-humidity sachets or (weird, I know) socks of kitty litter in their gloves. As weird as this sounds, those materials are extremely absorbent. The sweat goes from the inside of the glove into the sachets and takes the bacteria with it. You can also put your gloves in a plastic bag and in the freezer overnight. Google it. It works like a treat to kill bacteria.

  • Where to wear shoes

    Come to the gym wearing shoes. If you are not on the mats, wear shoes. If you need to go to the bathroom, get a drink, use the weights or take a mirror selfie to wear your shoes!

    But if you will be using boxing shoes, bring them with you and put them on the mats rather than wear them the whole time. The point is that you don’t cross-contaminate the mats with germs from the floor.

    Think about it in a non-gym scenario. Say I walked into a public bathroom barefoot and then asked someone if I could put my bare foot on their neck or chest. I would be currently writing this with an Ouija board as I would likely have been murdered.

    If you forget to wear shoes when you walk off the mats, that’s fine. We all make mistakes. But please clean the bottom of your feet with wipes before entering the mat to kill any bacteria.

    Remember – Shoes on EVERYWHERE EXCEPT the mats!

  • Do not train if you have staph symptoms

    Staph is highly contagious. If you have any symptoms of a BJJ staph infection, including something that resembles a boil, a painful rash, an oozing blister, or a fever, don’t train. Instead, keep it from getting worse and go and see your doctor.

  • A word from the author

    I know this was a long article, and I appreciate you slogging to the end. Gold star for you. To sum up, if you keep the above guidelines in mind, we should be able to keep TFC a Staph infection-free zone. Don’t forget we are a team, and these guidelines keep us all safe while we learn the finer points of face-punching!

    OSS!

    Jake Knights
    TFC member
    Microbiologist and avid face-punching fan

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