I have no idea how IO9′s Keith Veronese came up with the headline ‘MMA Fighters Love Staph Infections’, but MRSA is also a problem in pro football, pro basketball, pro baseball, and even soccer. I guess ‘Football Players Love Staph Infections’ would be a harder sell, especially considering how sacred the NFL is to many Americans.
My experiences as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu student suggest that if anything, fighters are more aware of the dangers of staph than the public. Staph infections aren’t only potentially deadly, they’re a major loss of training time. No one wants them, and spreading a disease to the people you train with is a great way to be kicked out of a gym. People who neglect their hygiene or carry infections of some sort (these usually go together) find themselves without training partners and are usually shown the door in short order, and any gym that doesn’t clean their mats after use is no place you should be.
I don’t know how many serious fighters cultivate a level of uncleanliness before a fight, so I can’t comment on that at all. I do suspect that few, if any of them, want staph themselves or to give it to other people. While I’m clearly an amateur (and a slow-learning, middle-aged, clumsy one at that), I’d love to host Mr. Veronese at my gym, or any other reputable training facility. I think he’d be surprised by what he found.
Some level of uncleanliness is likely maintained as an intimidation factor — one might not want to get too close to an opponent who smells like they have not seen the inside of a shower in a month. Sweaty clothes left in a gym bag for days on end also become a fertile breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. The combination of unclean mats, fighters, close contact, and blood leave fighters at risk for a litany of dangers including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), as many of the infections do not respond to typical antibiotic treatment. Staph wounds often lead to disgusting open entrances in the body — three inch wide holes in the skin that expose tissue and bone to elements (photo here, if you hate yourself). Severe wounds often need surgical debriding while the patient undergoes treatment with intravenous antibiotics. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, former Strikeforce champion and current TNA wrestler, contracted an extremely disturbing infection in 2012. Here’s how King Mo described the wound: