Athletes: Be Wary Of Infectious Illness


Athletes will often be concerned with keeping their body in top shape to stave off musculoskeletal conditions, but many will forget about what’s going on under the surface. Research conducted at Loughborough University, UK within the last year found that infections are higher in high intensity interval exercise, including soccer and tennis. Certain problems appear time and time again, as legends like Rafa Nadal have shown, and athletes should pay attention to ensure they stay healthy.

The impact of bacteria

Fungi are all around and interact with the human body on a daily basis. As industry experts Bio-Technical Resources note, bacteria are not exclusively a bad thing. In athletes, research has shown that supplementing the diet with certain strains of bacteria like bifidobacterium and streptococcus can bring tangible benefits. The impact of high-intensity exercise can lead to stress impacting on the gut, and replacing bacteria will improve performance. Conversely, the higher incidence rate of minor injuries such as broken skin leads to a higher rate of infection transfer between athletes. Keeping your immune well fortified with vitamins and ‘good’ bacteria is an effective defense against this and, for those with hospital-bound injuries, minimizing the risk of contracting MRSA and related infections. Several notable athletes have tackled MRSA in the past; the NY Giants’ Daniel Fells and footballer David Busst being notable.

David Busst

Affecting the airways

Unsurprisingly, physical activity has a direct impact on your respiratory function. This manifests in a number of ways, including respiratory conditions, which are notably high in athletes. This factor connects David Beckham, Peter Vanderkaay and countless others. According to the British Medical Journal, up to 50% of elite athletes will have asthma, with a similar number experiencing similar hypo-allergenic symptoms. The key in managing respiratory conditions is recognizing them early and aggressively treating them. Anyone with experience in exercise will know their body well. Listen to your body, and speak to the doctor if you have issues. Treatment with otrivine and steroidal nose sprays can help to address many respiratory problems with speed.

Mental health issues

Often overlooked in the high-performance world of professional sports and athletics is mental health. When the stakes are so high, coaches and managers will often feel there is simply no time to worry about mental well being. For those athletes in the media spotlight, this pressure can become all the more intense, and sometimes detrimental; Tiger Woods is a high profile example. As a result of this, research has shown that athletes can be more prone to mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. One study, reported by the UK’s Guardian, found that up to 20% of young athletes have symptoms of depression.

While mental health is obviously the key and most important concern, it’s also worth noting that mental illness can have an adverse impact on physical recovery. The same study reported by The Guardian noted a finding that those with mental health illness typically took a longer time to recover. Be open with your emotions and make use of services like sports psychologists; they can be especially useful during times of injury or during high pressure periods.

The athlete’s body is primed and ready to deal with musculoskeletal ailments, but others can sneak up and cause undue problems. Take a holistic view to your health; rather than just looking to tackle the ‘big’ injuries, be aware of how bacteria can help or harm you, and look after your own mental well being. Doing so will contribute more to your overall performance than simply avoiding injury.

Kenya Athletes
Athletes stretch during a training session