Don’t Wrestle Around the Issue: Mat Herpes

Blake Flovin’s face is covered by a severe red rash.

It’s herpes gladiatorum (mat herpes), a highly contagious virus that is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact and discovered most often among athletes. Blake contracted the virus during a recent tournament at San Jose’s Independence High School, and he is now pleading with officials to postpone this weekend’s state wrestling championships to ensure other Bay Area wrestlers are not exposed.

The officials’ response? No go.


School officials insist they follow rigid protocols, including regular “skin checks,” to ensure wrestlers are protected. But what does Blake say? That high school athletes very often use makeup or Band-Aids to cover lesions that may disqualify them from a match. In other words? Kids skirt around the issue.

How does mat herpes present? Generally, lesions or sores appear on the face, arms, legs, or trunk within 8 days of exposure. Some people experience sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever, or tingling in the skin. Herpes gladiatorum infections can also recur. The virus may “hide out” for a period of time and reactivate later. This infection is just as contagious as the original infection.

How can mat herpes be prevented?

  • Personal hygiene is essential
  • Shower at school immediately after practice
  • Use your own soap and towel
  • Wash towels after each use
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Never pick or squeeze skin sores
  • Always report skin lesions or sores

One of the most important and overlooked prevention methods? Cleaning equipment. Like Blake said, high school athletes are not always truthful about their exposure to skin infections, and they also don’t always spend the time needed to fully and properly disinfect equipment. Good hygiene amongst athletes is important, but thorough and aggressive cleaning of wrestling mats is even more imperative. That’s where Surface Shield can help. Download our FREE Deep Cleaning Prevention Checklist to make sure you’re doing all you can to keep your student athletes safe from illness as you head into the postseason.


tive Measures Against MRSA


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