7 Tips To Help You Avoid Ringworm In BJJ And Wrestling


How to avoid ringworm in BJJ and wrestling

One of the most unpleasant things that many BJJ practitioners and wrestlers deal with is ringworm and other skin infections such as staph. The reason these conditions are so common is due to all the transfer of germs and fungi through skin-to-skin contact and from dirty grappling mats. But what can you do to help prevent this from happening? How do you avoid ringworm in BJJ and Wrestling? 

The most basic thing you can do to prevent ringworm in BJJ and wrestling is to stay clean. Make sure you take a shower and wash your gear as soon as you are done training. In addition, make sure you go to practice in a gym that keeps their mats clean. 

Those are certainly the very basics when it comes to preventing ringworm in BJJ and other grappling arts such as judo and wrestling. At the end of the day, these same rules would apply to any grappling art, not just BJJ. Honestly, it applies to any sport that involves a lot of sweat and skin to skin contact. 

Though these tips do not cover everything, they are the most basic tips you need to know for preventing ringworm when grappling. However, before we get to that lets first discuss what ringworm is and why it is such a bad problem in BJJ.

What Is Ringworm And Why Is It So Common In BJJ And Wrestling

Basically, ringworm is a fungal infection that often causes a rash that looks like a ring. It is often itchy, red, circular in shape. Typically, the inside of the circle is clearer, giving it the appearance of a ring. When  I was a kid used to think that ringworm was actually caused by some sort of worm. 

But in actuality ringworm is caused by fungus. It simply gets its name from the appearance it causes on your body. Not from a worm that gets inside your skin. Though that would be truly disgusting, the fungal infection is not something to take lightly either.

The reason that ringworm is so common in BJJ and wrestling is simply due to the nature of the sport. Probably the most common way to catch ringworm is through skin-to-skin contact. This of course is very common in grappling sport. 

It can also spread through dirty equipment and gear. When a gym does not properly clean its mats it can become a haven for skin infections. All in all, BJJ and wrestling gyms are the perfect breeding grounds for ringworm and other skin infections. This is especially true if you go to a gym that does not take hygiene seriously. 

Avoiding Ringworm In BJJ and Wrestling

There is a lot that you can do to avoid getting ringworm from BJJ. Though I do not cover everything, these tips will certainly lower your chances of getting ringworm. Let’s start with my number one tip to avoid ringworm in BJJ and wrestling. 

#1 Don’t Come To The Mats Dirty

When It comes to preventing ringworm in BJJ the first thing you need to do is accept personal responsibility. Don’t be the person who is the cause of ringworm in your gym. The best way to do this is to never step on the mats when you are not clean. This would include your body and your clothes. Even if you have taken a shower that day that does not mean your gear is clean. It can be tempting to come to the gym with a gi that was not washed.

After all, you only used it once and didn’t roll hard on the day that you used it. You might even pick it up to smell it and think well it doesn’t smell bad. This is never ok. You should never come to the gym in an unwashed gi or other grappling attire. This would also include things such as headgear, spats, singlets, rashguards, and shorts. 

I am not saying that you have to shower right before class but you should have at least showered that day. I understand that many people are coming from work and it is not realistic for everyone to shower immediately before class. 

If you do shower right before class then I would recommend that you do not use anti-bacterial soap. Antibacterial soap will kill the good protective bacteria on your skin that you will need when rolling BJJ. Instead, use a soap such as defense soap that was created for grapplers. 

Defense soap is effective against certain fungi such as ringworm, but it does not kill the good bacteria on the skin as antibacterial soap does. Though antibacterial soap might naturally seem like the best solution, it is not the best soap to use before training. To learn more about the best soaps for grapplers check out my article: What is the best soap for wrestling and BJJ

I understand that this tip is more for you not spreading germs rather than you avoiding other people’s germs. That said if everyone would start with this #1 rule then there would be much fewer skin infections in BJJ and other grappling sports. So do your part so that we can all avoid ringworm when grappling. 

#2 Shower After Every Training Session With Antifungal Soap

My first tip is probably the number one thing we can do as a BJJ community to prevent the spread of ringworm. My number two tip, however, is probably the best thing you can do to personally avoid ringworm. That is to shower after every training session with an antifungal soap or body wash such as defense soap or body wash.

Using an antifungal soap after training will help you avoid getting ringworm after training. The ingredients in these soaps are effective against many skin infections including ringworm. After all, ringworm is a fungal infection. With that in mind, the best soap you can use after training is an antifungal soap or body wash. I would suggest using a soap that uses powerful anti-fungal ingredients such as tea tree and eucalyptus oil. Make sure to wash your whole body from head to toe. 

If you don’t want to wash your hair with soap or body wash you can also purchase an anti-fungal shampoo and conditioner. My favorite shampoo that is also effective against fungus is Avalon Organics Scalp Treatment Shampoo and Grandpas Pine Tar Shampoo Scalp Therapy with tea tree oil. Not only do I want to avoid ringworm, but I also simply love the way this shampoo makes my scalp feel. These shampoos contain tea tree oil which is known to be effective against ringworm.

Another shampoo that I use about twice per week is Nizoral. Nizoral contains ketoconazole which is an antifungal medicine that is effective against both dandruff and fungal infections. In fact, dandruff is often caused by the presence of a fungus called Malassezia. As an added bonus ketoconazole has also been shown aid in the fight against hair loss for some people.

If you have a long ride home after the gym and cannot get to a shower in a short amount of time there is still something you can do. The first thing would be to at least was your hands. Next, you will want to invest in some antifungal body wipes like the ones made by Defense. Wipe down your body after training, especially the areas where your skin was exposed to other people and the grappling mats.

#3 Keep Your Grappling Gear Clean

Though we sort of covered this tip in tip number one, I still think it should be mentioned as a stand-alone tip. It is important to always keep your gear and grappling clothing clean. This would include your gis, headgear, rashguards, spats, shorts, singlets, gym towels, socks and shoes for wrestlers, and whatever else you can think of. This is key if you really want to avoid ringworm in BJJ or wrestling.

Hanging around in dirty clothes is certainly one way to make it more likely to get ringworm. Understanding how to properly wash your BJJ and wrestling gear is essential for basic hygiene. If you are not sure how to properly wash your gi, then check out my blog post: How To Wash A Gi. This is especially important because a BJJ gis is very thick and can hold on to quite a bit of sweat.

That said, it is also important to keep everything else clean as well. Make sure to wash your rashguards, singlets, and spats as well. Though they are not as thick as a BJJ gi, they are designed for absorbing sweat. It is also important to keep things such as your headgear clean as well. It is often the small things like headgear that is often forgotten about. That said, you can get ringworm from the little things that are easy to forget about.

For the wrestlers, it is very important to keep a clean pair of socks and shoes at all times. Another very common fungal infection is athlete’s foot. Clean and dry feet are crucial for avoiding this type of fungal infection. Lastly, if you are going to shower at your gym always wear flip-flops and always bring a fresh towel.

Never share your towel with other people or borrow a towel from another person. This goes for sharing clothing and other grappling gear as well. After all, this is one of the most common ways people contract ringworm. My basic point is to keep your gear clean and never share it with other people.

It can be hard to always keep your gear as clean as possible. Because of this, I think it is a good idea to invest in more grappling gear. You will need more than one BJJ gi and one pair of wrestling shoes. You don’t have to have a ton to start, but you should try and build up some inventory as time goes on.

#4 Wear Rash Guard And Spats

Another one of the most crucial things you can do to avoid ringworm in BJJ is to wear rash guards and spats. Not only do they help regulate your body temperature they also protect your skin. The less of your skin that is exposed to other people, the less likely your skin will come into contact with ringworm.

In addition, if everyone is wearing rashguards and spats there would be much less skin-to-skin contact in grappling sports. Not only that but rash guards and spats help you to keep your sweat to yourself. So the end result is much less of your sweat getting on your training partner and on the mats.

I’m sure you have probably seen how sweaty BJJ and wrestling mats can get after a hard training session. Well if more people were to wear the proper clothing, then it would be much less of a problem. Of course, you should always clean the mats anyway but less sweat on the mats does make a long-term difference in gym hygiene.

Since rash guards and spats are so great for regulating body temperature and absorbing sweat, you should even wear them on the days that you train in the gi. Naturally, you might expect that you will get too hot, however, rash guards help regulate your temperature both ways. In addition, the rashguard will absorb most of the sweat, resulting in less sweat for your gi to absorb. This will help keep things more sanitary and probably give your gi more life.

That said, it is a good idea to invest in some rash guards and spats, even if you only train in the gi. The most important way they will help you avoid ringworm is by covering more of your skin. They will help protect your skin from your training partners and sweaty mats.

In turn, when you wear the proper clothing you are also helping protect your training partners from your sweat as well. You can get some decently priced and quality rash guards for pretty cheap. A good example would be some basic Sanabul Rashguards

#5 Train On Clean Mats

If you want to avoid ringworm in BJJ you have to train on clean mats. Outside of skin-to-skin contact, grappling mats are probably the most common area BJJ practitioners and wrestlers get ringworm. When mats are left uncleaned for long amounts of time many bacteria and fungi can take over. This is especially true if very sweaty mats dry up without first being cleaned.

Many gyms will also have a tub to step in to wash off the bottoms of your feet before stepping on the mats as well. If they have a foot washing station make sure to make use of it before stepping on the mat. This way you are not bringing anything on the mats with you. Feet are also one of the most body parts for fungal infections.

A good BJJ or wrestling gym should clean their mats after every training session and class. Of course, I do understand that for most of you this is out of your control. That is unless you are the one responsible for cleaning mats at your gym, which most likely you are not. However, that does not mean you do not have any say in the matter.

If you love your gym but they are not good at cleaning their mats you might need to say something about it. I understand this is hard and it is honestly the last thing I would want to do. After all, I am not someone who enjoys telling someone how to run their business. That said, it is a very important part of running a grappling gym.

Simply address the problem as someone who wants to help instead of someone being critical. Tell them that you are afraid that they might be losing business to other gyms that are on top of their cleaning routines. Otherwise, you might need to find another gym that takes this more seriously.

#6 Don’t Share Gear Or Clothing

I know that your parents might have taught you to always share. However, when it comes to sharing grappling gear or clothing this is a bad idea. Of course, this might sound obvious at this point but if you want to avoid ringworm in BJJ then never share gear or clothing. Seems like common sense but this happens all the time. It is especially common with things such as sharing gis or towels.

This can be very tempting at times especially if you forgot something at home. This rule is pretty simple so no need to beat a dead horse. Just don’t share clothes, towels, headgear, or any other grappling gear with other people from your school.

#7 Don’t Train BJJ or Wrestling If You Have Ringworm

If you do happen to get ringworm then you need to stay away from your BJJ or wrestling gym until it is completely gone. Of course, if you already have ringworm I guess you cannot really avoid it at this point. However, if everyone who got ringworm would just stay home, then we would have much less of a problem with ringworm in BJJ and wrestling.

After all, the reason there is ringworm in BJJ and wrestling gyms is that someone goes there when they are infected. So please do your part to help other people avoid getting ringworm as well. This way we can all collectively reduce the spread of ringworm and other skin infections for that matter. So if you notice that you have a rash or any infectious disease, then please stay away from the mats.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips will help you to avoid ringworm when training BJJ or wrestling. The most basic rule is that you want to keep yourself and your clothes as clean as possible. Here is a quick reminder of the 7 tips to avoid ringworm in BJJ and grappling.

  • Never come to the gym dirty
  • Always shower after training with an antifungal soap such as Defense Soap
  • Keep your grappling gear clean
  • Always wear rash guards and spats
  • Train on clean mats
  • Don’t share gear or clothing
  • Don’t come to class if you have ringworm

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