Sports are a big part of our lives. The benefits of keeping active and healthy, both physically and mentally, have never been more recognised. However, sports also come with risks, such as sprains, strains and in some cases broken bones. But there is also a lesser known menace associated with sport – ringworm.
Ringworm is a superficial fungal infection of the skin. It can occur anywhere on the body from head to toe: on the scalp (tinea capitis), body (tinea corporis), inner thighs, groin and buttocks (tinea cruris), or feet (tinea pedis). It manifests as a red, itchy, ring-shaped rash and flaking or peeling skin. Anyone can get ringworm and, although it is not considered a serious infection, it is estimated that 10-20% of us will contract it during our lifetime1 (with an estimated market worth for tinea cruris and tinea corporis therapies of over ~ $1 bn/year).2 It has also been noted that in certain sports there is a greater risk of both tinea cruris and tinea corporis.
Tinea cruris, also known as jock itch, is particularly prevalent in men and adolescent boys who play sport.3 The fungi that cause tinea cruris thrive in warm, moist environments, such as the inner thigh, groin and buttocks.3 As such, people who play sports who sweat a lot, or reside in hot, humid climates, are more at risk.4 Tinea cruris is highly contagious: it can spread to different parts of the body (from a fungal infection on the feet (tinea pedia – athlete’s foot) to the groin through clothing); and be passed on to other people by contact or sharing sports gear.5,6
Tinea corporis, ringworm of the body, occurs on the neck, legs, arms or torso.7 There are various risk factors, such as contact with infected animals and people,7 and, like tinea cruris, it is also more prevalent among people who play sports.7 In fact, tinea corporis outbreaks are so frequent among wrestlers and judo practitioners that they are termed tinea corporis gladiatorum.8 Thus, treatment and prevention are paramount to knock fungus out of the wrestling ring!
According to Mark Hollingworth, our Finance Director and Krav Maga enthusiast, “Wrestling has become more fashionable over the last 20 years and there is an increased awareness of good hygiene practices. Most clubs insist that everyone wears rash guards and wrestling shorts, which limits skin exposure”. It is also recommended that players maintain good personal hygiene measures and refrain from sharing sports gear.3,9
For those who do develop tinea cruris or tinea corporis, there are various medical treatments available. Non-prescription (over-the-counter) antifungal creams, sprays and gels contain actives such as terbinafine, ketoconazole, and clotrimazole to beat the fungus into submission.9 While recurrent infections and those more difficult to treat may require systemic (oral) antifungal therapy.9 These current and emerging treatments help to combat the fungus so we don’t have to wrestle with it for long.
- NHS inform. Ringworm and other fungal infections. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/ringworm-and-other-fungal-infections [Accessed on 11/10/2019].
- Estimated based on market analysis by Blueberry Therapeutics Ltd.
- Kids Health. Jock itch. Available from: https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/jock-itch.html [Accessed on 18/10/2019].
- Emedicine. Tinea cruris. Available from: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1091806-overview#a6 [Accessed on 18/10/2019]
- Harvard health publishing. Jock itch (tinea cruris). Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/jock-itch-tinea-cruris-a-to-z [Accessed on 18/10/2019]
- Contemporary clinic. How is jock itch treated? Available from: https://contemporaryclinic.pharmacytimes.com/journals/issue/2019/april2019/how-is-jock-itch-treated [Accessed on 18/10/2019]
- Emedicine. Ringworm on body. Available from: https://www.emedicinehealth.com/ringworm_on_body/article_em.htm [Accessed on 18/10/2019]
- Adams, BB. Tinea corporis gladiatorum. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2002, 47 286-290. Available from: https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(02)00060-9/fulltext [Accessed on 11/18/2019]
- Centers for disease control and prevention. Fungal diseases. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/ringworm/treatment.html [Accessed on 11/10/2019]