Q: My girlfriend won’t let me touch or kiss her after I roll. She’s afraid of catching something, I have to shower before she’ll even see me. Is her fear warranted?
Many people worry about catching diseases from rolling or dirty equipment, especially Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aurues, or MRSA. Herpes Simplex Virus – 1, or HSV-1 (not the sexually transmitted virus) has also been reported in athletes in close contact. All of us are colonized with bacteria. In fact, bacteria is everywhere. Some of the bacteria in our body is good and helps it function. Other bacteria are bad and are held in check by our immune system and the environment created by our normal colonization of bacteria. When our immune system is compromised, or we take antibiotics, or we get cuts in our skin, the bacteria that are normally held in check, such as MRSA, can get a foothold and start growing and infecting us. The best way to avoid the spread of bacteria from one person to another during combat sports is to keep open wounds covered, so the bacteria don’t have a good access point into the body.
In addition, good hygiene practices, including showering and washing with soap and hot water after all practices and competitions is a good routine to fall into.
The sharing of towels, personal items, and equipment should be avoided if possible. Shaving can open up small cracks in the skin and should not be done close to training time. Also, make sure where you train performs routine cleaning of shared equipment and surfaces with a standard hospital disinfectant.
So, while your girlfriend is unlikely to get an infection from simple touching and kissing, taking a shower may help you get farther with her, since no girl wants to touch a dirty, sweaty boyfriend!
Q: I’m starting to develop a cauliflower ear; some of the guys at my school drain theirs with needles. I’ve seen it on-line before. Should I go to the doctor, or do it myself?
Cauliflower ear can become a badge of honor for some grapplers. Brazilian youths have even been known to rub their ears with rocks to create cauliflower ears. The cause of a cauliflower ear is the build-up of blood between the tissue layers that forms clots and scar-tissue, leading to permanent deformity. Draining the blood can help prevent the build-up of blood (as can headgear!). However, drainage should not be done by just anyone. Anytime a needle is stuck into the skin, there is a chance of infection, which is why the drainage should be done under strictly sterile conditions. Many people end up in emergency rooms across the country because they try and drain infections themselves, often making it worse. It’s best to seek out a qualified health professional. The inconvenience of not doing it yourself will be outweighed by the consequences of a severe infection if you are the unlucky person who gets one.
Q: Sometimes when I roll, or do other strenuous activities, I’ll develop a splitting headache. Is this common? Should I be worried?
Rolling or other strenuous activities can raise your blood pressure, which can lead to exertional headaches from the extra pressure in the head. These usually go away once your heart rate and blood pressure settle back down. However, there are cases where headaches can be a warning sign of something more serious such as severe migraines, bleeding in the brain, or an aneurysm. Some “red flags” to be aware of:
• Abrupt, severe onset (“thunderclap” onset or the worse headache ever in your life)
• Loss of consciousness/confusion
• Stiff neck and sensitivity to light
• Change in how the headaches normally feel
• New headaches after age 50
• Headaches associated with head/neck trauma
• Associated muscle weakness
• Increasingly worse over several days
• Changes in personality or more irritability
While headaches are often normal, seeing a doctor to rule out the serious stuff should always be done!