Open the average athlete's gear bag and what is that smell?
Hint: It's not Doritos or cheese. Athletes can be either mortified or have a perverse pride over what is brewing in their gear bag. Remember the once pristine newbies who already smelled like dirty feet by the time they were drafted on to a team?
Well, what the funk? Basically if you have stink, you have bacteria eating, defecating, reproducing and living full and productive lives inside your pads. What are they eating? Whatever bits of you sloughed off during the last practice, or the last couple of seasons.
Serious skin infections, including MRSA are on the rise among athletes, both from athletic gear and skin to skin contact. Infection starts when bacteria, mold, etc are present and the barrier function of the skin is weakened. Two things that will weaken your skin's barrier function pretty quickly are moisture and abrasion. Let's say you have sweaty, poorly fitting elbow pads for example that are rubbing and causing even micro abrasions to your skin. You may as well roll out the impetigo/staph infection welcome mat. Here's some tips to keep your skin healthy and keep you in the game.
Make sure your equipment is well fitting.
Make sure your equipment is dry
Use a clean barrier between your skin and your pads like socks, tights, base layers etc
Put your gear on properly so it doesn't cause friction
Air out your pads/ equipment - open your bag! Let them dry!
Wash your skin with soap and water
Spray your gear with disinfectant and let dry thoroughly
If possible, WASH YOUR GEAR!
Methods of washing athletic equipment are all over the internet including some wacky methods using vodka and/or the dishwasher. Luckily in my sport I'm able to throw safety gear in the washing machine, air dry and use the vodka for martinis.