Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Proper Hygiene for BJJ

It's been a while since I posted something and this is a topic that comes up more often then it probably should.  One of the most frustrating issues that crops up from time to time in Jiu-Jitsu is something most don't want to openly talk about......HYGIENE!  I'm not really sure what our predisposition is for keeping hygiene such a taboo topic.  Maybe people prefer to avoid conflict and don't want to say, "hey man, I'm sorry but you smell really bad."  I know that I personally don't want to offend anyone but there comes a time when something needs to be said to our training partners regarding their hygiene when it is blatantly lacking.  Not saying anything can perpetuate bad habits that can cost others time off the mats and risk their health.  I feel that we are all responsible to say something if there is an obvious problem.

What most don't realize is that there are a lot of nasty things that are easily transmittable while grappling.  Ring worm and Staph are the two most common forms of skin infections that we encounter on the mats.  What few realize about Staph is this:

Staph is all around us.  It can be living on your skin and you can be carrying the bacteria yet never become infected.  Why?  Staph simply needs to find a way into your body.  This can be accomplished through a small cut.  Staph can be transmitted by touch.  This doesn't mean you are automatically infected.  As previously stated, the bacteria needs to find a way into your body.  That said, it is IMPERATIVE to shower after training.  The longer you carry Staph on your body the higher likelihood that you will either spread the bacteria or become infected.

How to prevent the spread of Staph and skin infections:

1. Always use clean gear (if it smells it's probably not clean).  Even if it's only "lightly" trained in it needs to be washed.  There are sprays and wipes that can be used to clean gear such as gloves, shin guards, etc.  See below in #3 for some of these products.

2. Don't show up to the gym dirty.  If you haven't had a shower in a reasonable amount of time or worked out already earlier in the day...take a shower!

3. Keep your nails trimmed.  This is pretty simple.  Nails can scratch and cause cuts fairly easily.

4. Wash your hands.  Our hands are usually the dirtiest body parts we have because we touch so many things.  So with that in mind, trimmed and clean nails are the best thing for your training partners.

5. If you have cuts cover them.  Like previously stated, bacteria can get into your body through cuts.  I typically use a bandage and athletic tape to keep things safe for me and my training partners.

6. After training, promptly shower.  There are many products to disinfect your body should you be concerned you have come in contact with Staph.  If you can't shower immediately AT LEAST wash your hands until you can shower or use anti-bacteria hand cleaner.


4. Make sure that your gym is cleaning the mats.  This is a no-brainer and one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of skin infections.

Here is a picture of Ring Worm.
Ring Worm is fairly easy to identify and treat.  There are over the counter medicines that can be used to combat this issue.  Creams that contain clotrimazole (Cruex cream,  Desenex cream, Lotrimin cream, lotion and solution), and terbinafine (Lamisil cream and solution) are just a couple reliable methods.  You can find these at most CVS or Walgreens pharmacies.  Treatment usually takes up to two weeks to effectively remove Ring Worm.  If the problem persists.....SEE YOUR DOCTOR!!!
Lamisil is easy to find. Here is an example:

Here is a picture of Nail Fungus & Athlete's Foot.  Fortunately treatment is the same as Ring Worm.  

5. If you suspect you have a skin infection, do the right thing and stay off the mat.  Go see a doctor and identify the problem.  Staph infections usually start out as something that may resemble a boil, hot to the touch, and will continue to get larger until it is addressed with antibiotics.  Staph is NOT going to just disappear on its own and can get really out of hand if not addressed.  Here is a picture of Staph on a person's knee.  You can see the primary point of infection and the radiating heat/infection as it spreads through the leg.

God forbid you come in contact with MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphyloccus Aureus) a much more nasty version of the Staph you certainly need to take steps to get to a doctor.  This is a strain of Staph we read about in the news that literally eats you up in short order.  Many well known MMA fighters have had documented cases of MRSA.  Here is a picture of MMA fighter Kevin Randleman showing the damage caused by the more aggressive strain MRSA.

6. If you have indeed been diagnosed as having a skin infection like Staph or Ring Worm...let your instructor know.  Maybe someone isn't addressing the mat cleaning well enough.  Maybe something needs to be said to all the participants about hygiene.  Not saying anything may perpetuate a big problem.

Get the FUNK out of your Gi!

I think at some point everyone eventually has a funky (mildew) smelling gi no matter how strict you are about washing it.  I typically wash my gi's and hang dry them to prevent excessive shrinkage. Periodically bacteria builds up in the fabric and even though it's "clean" it will begin to smell as soon as I sweat in my gi during a training session.  I have tried MANY products to take the funk out. The best method I have found is washing the gi like normal and simply hang dry it out in the sun when all else fails. The UV rays work like magic zapping that funky smelling bacteria.  I don't do this all the time because excessive UV rays will break down the fabric.  The gi will be very dry and crispy feeling after line drying.  I will take the gi and throw it in the dryer, tumbling on low heat with a dryer sheet.  This will help soften the fibers up in the gi and make it soft enough to train in.

To summarize:
1. UV light (hang dry outside in sunlight)
2. Borax (cheap and in laundry section of stores; add to washing loads)
3. Baking soda (add to your washing machine loads)
4. Don't overuse detergents and liquid fabric softeners that aren't properly getting washed out of your gi
5. Don't throw your gi in a bag or wait an excessive amount of time to wash it

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