Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have demonstrated that basketballs and volleyballs can spread potentially dangerous germs among players.
Their findings may bring a new awareness to athletes, coaches, trainers and parents regarding safe sanitation practices for athletes.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as MRSA, is a kind of staph that is particularly worrisome because of its resistance to many antibiotics.
Athletes with MRSA infections often must endure emergency hospital stays followed by lengthy outpatient visits and time away from games and practice.
The US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has initiated a campaign to help identify and prevent diseases which can be spread among athletes.
During the study, the researchers analyzed the germ threat on volleyballs and basketballs, the players’ hands and the gym floor.
For each phase of the study, two of the three surfaces were sterilised, and the third was left in its native state. Germicidal Ultraviolet “C” (UVC) light was used to sterilise the ball and the floor tiles, whereas hands were sanitised by washing with antibacterial soap.
Staphylococcus aureus cultures were then sampled from all three surfaces. Next, the players dribbled and passed the ball in a specified pattern and duration to simulate actual sports play.
In each study, the previously sterile surfaces accumulated more Staphylococcus aureus through play.
In addition, the investigators discovered that it was capable of surviving on the sports ball after 72 hours in storeroom conditions.
“The overwhelming prevalence of Staphylococcus aureus we encountered supports our understanding of the gym environment as a reservoir of germs,” project superviser Joshua Cotter said.
“Institutions, coaches, and athletes should take note of the role the sports ball can play as a vehicle for the transmission of potentially life-threatening germs.”
Although not part of this research, Cotter added that other dangerous bacteria and viruses may also be spread among athletes.
The research was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine national.