Dr. Happy Offers Advice About Preventing Skin Infections

Lots of athletes have been asking me about how to prevent skin infections such as Staph, while training. MMA, Thai boxing and Ju-jitsu are excellent sports for conditioning and competing. Because of the nature of the sport (submissions and knee sparring) competitors are at a greater risk of skin infections. Skin infections can be contagious and if left untreated can cause serious infections and even death. Currently MRSA is one of the greatest health risks in the country due to it’s resistance to antibiotics. If a gym becomes infected with staph it can be cited and closed by the health department.


Many infections are caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus or “Staph”. It is a bacteria that most of us have living in our nose and on our skin. Staph infections cause pimples, boils and abscesses. A subtype of Staph bacteria is called MRSA. Because of MRSA, ANY staph infection in an athlete should be checked out and cleared by a medical professional BEFORE you train.

The first signs of a staph infection are easy to miss. They can be as simple as a red bump on the skin. If you notice a red bump on your skin that becomes more painful, develops pus like drainage or seems to be spreading see a doctor and have it checked. Infection can occur from getting a scratch on our skin, direct contact with an open wound or from exposure to a towel, piece of equipment that has touched a contaminated wound.

Many infections are caused by a bacteria called Staphylococcus or “Staph”. The best approach to preventing a staph infection is Good hygiene:


  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Wash hands with soap and water frequently<!–[endif]–>
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Keep cuts and abrasions covered during practice and wash them frequently with soap and water. If you are training in MMA consider wearing a rash guard. I also recommend this for knee sparring in Thai boxing.<!–[endif]–>
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Avoid contact with other person’s wounds<!–[endif]–>
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Don’t share towels, clothing or equipment (like boxing gloves) with others<!–[endif]–>
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Bathe as soon after practice and play as possible. <!–[endif]–>
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Gyms should establish regular schedules for cleaning any equipment that is shared. I recommend cleaning mats twice a day and Thai pads at least once.<!–[endif]–>
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Invest in your own hand wraps, boxing/ MMA gloves.<!–[endif]–>
  • <!–[if !supportLists]–>Change clothes frequently and don’t leave wet, dirty clothes in the locker to incubate until the next training<!–[endif]–>
  • Early reporting and proper treatment of skin lesions by an athlete is key to preventing spread.

<!–[if !supportLists]–><!–[endif]–>


Other infections of the skin that combative athletes are at risk for are:

Herpes Simples 1: Facial or non-genital outbreak of leisons, which include:

Herpes Gladiatorum: Leisons on the face, neck or head that are often accompanied by a headache or fever.

Chicken pox: A viral disease with a low fever that is followed by a rash with small blisters.

Ringworm: A Fungal infection of the scalp or body which includes an itchy, flaky rash.

Impetigo: A streptococcal or staphylococcal infection that occurs on the surface of the skin.

Folliculitis: A staph infection of the hair follicles.

Dr. Happy graduated from Howard University Medical School in Washington D.C. She completed her Family Practice residency at University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Happy is involved in private practice and works with the CA State Athletic Commission. She is one of the few ringside physicians who brings fighting experience in Muay Thai and Boxing to the table in her role as a ringside physician. She also trains Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ). Dr. Happy fought while she was in medical school and residency despite the outspoken disapproval of her peers and superiors. She started training with Greg Nelson at Minnesota Martial Arts Academy in the early 1990′s, currently trains at Gym 445 , Marin MMA and Fight and Fitness and sometimes teaches at Fairtex. In March of 2006, Happy gave birth and within a week she set about training for a comeback.

Dr. Happy battles with many of her colleagues who believe that extreme fighting sports must be outlawed. Many fighters approach her because they previously dealt with doctors who discouraged them from competing. Dr. Happy Productions mission is to provide excellent heath care to athletes and maintenance of a pool of trained and competent physicians to work ringside.

Dr. Happy frequently serves as a ringside physician for the state of California. Her most memorable assignments include working with the UFC, IFL and Strike Force and Gladiator Challenge. She has appeared on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights and Thursday Night Fights. Dr. Happy continues to promote women in every aspect of combat sports

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