How Universities Can Tackle Infection Control in Athletic Training Rooms

Written by: Alice Palmer

When you think about athletic activities, the top risks that come to mind are musculoskeletal injuries. Although, athletes, students, and staff are also at high risk of acquiring infections in training rooms. These enclosed spaces are conducive to viral and bacterial growth because athletes are in close contact with each other — often in conditions that are far from ideal.

A study tested two high school and two collegiate athletic training rooms and found that there were significant amounts of bacterial load inside. There were also high rates of multidrug-resistant organisms like the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and the vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE). In fact, 24% of all the surfaces swabbed during the study contained these organisms; and 25% of surfaces carried the influenza virus. These infectious organisms are health hazards, MRSA infections are infamous for requiring hospitalization and intravenous antibiotic treatments. What’s more, student-athletes may become spreaders of these viruses throughout the school. However, the same study also curbed the viral load in athletic training rooms down to 0% through awareness drives and disinfection methods. Take a cue from those researchers and tackle infection control in your athletic training rooms through the following measures:

Have a proactive infection control awareness drive

Infectious disease specialist at the Wayne State University’s medical program, Teena Chopra, says that the biggest impact on infection control will come from prevention. The student-athletes must first understand the risks of infection, after which they’re motivated to adopt behavioral changes.

Chopra says hand hygiene is the cornerstone of infection mitigation. Moreover, as we discussed in a previous post, there should be an increase in awareness about cross-contamination — from viruses on devices such as phones.

Student-athletes must also be careful not to touch the T-zone with dirty hands; this is where dirty hands can make contact with the eyes, nose, and mouth. Chopra urges those who are in charge of spaces like universities, athletic facilities, and training rooms to implement programs for antimicrobial stewardship.

Get help from an infection control nurse

Infections are medical health threats, that much is clear. Bringing in professionals like nurses would not only help control the infection, but would also greatly promote student-athletes’ overall health. As the pandemic revealed nurses’ important role in infection control, it also exacerbated the nursing shortage. This pushed the healthcare community to adapt quickly to continue producing more nurses.

One of the key strategies is online learning. Today, nurses can take online RN to BSN programs to advance their practice and become certified in infection control. As these programs are taught purely online, it’s an ideal arrangement for practicing nurses. Online BSN curriculums are also accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education ensuring that they’re on par with traditional degrees. Infection control nurses are taught the best practices for halting the spread of viruses and bacteria— this on top of delivering care to people who’ve contracted diseases. These specialized nurses can even work with you to create awareness drives and establish the proper protocols.

Hire professionals for thorough disinfection

While regular cleaning is encouraged, it may not be enough for athletic training rooms. It’s best to commission professionals to ensure that the job is done well in these demanding spaces. Plus, your facility may have specific concerns that you may not be aware of.

Enlist the help of professional disinfecting teams from Safety Net to get the best combination of infection control solutions and disinfection services. We offer custom disinfection services tailor-fit to your needs, making infection control more cost-effective. We have an impressive range of EPA-approved and registered devices that can aid in disinfection and long-term protection. Getting your athletic training rooms disinfected by Safety Net is a great springboard towards eliminating infectious viruses altogether. You can also strengthen your infection control efforts with our offerings of the newest technologies, including air purification systems, UV Boxes, and mPulse hand sanitizers.

Infection control in athletic training rooms isn’t a one-time deal, it needs consistent effort and continuous awareness.

About the Author

Alice Palmer is a guest writer for The Safety Blog.

Go Safely Back to School

School districts could never have imagined a year ago that a virus could and would become a deadly risk for students and staff. The coronavirus came with little warning and quickly overwhelmed our health care system. As infection rates soared, schools and businesses shut down, and people hunkered down at home. Supplies of personal protective equipment and disinfectants became scarce and demand for school disinfection skyrocketed.

Developing and implementing plans to reduce the risk of contracting – and spreading – the coronavirus became and continues to be a top priority. But the spread of misinformation about disinfection products has made it confusing, if not risky, to choose the most effective products. Many companies have taken advantage of consumers and organizations by peddling information and disinfection products that are ineffective and potentially harmful if not used correctly.   

So what’s the solution to providing a safe environment for students and staff? It starts with consulting with a reputable company that can help you develop the most effective school disinfection plan. Reducing the risk of contracting and spreading a virus within schools and district facilities also takes a comprehensive approach: disinfection that tackles hard surfaces, air purification, hand hygiene and small devices.  

Hard Surface Disinfection

Let’s start with some basics. When it comes to hard surface disinfection, you need to understand the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates disinfectants and approves information included on product labels. According to the EPA, disinfectants destroy or inactivate 99.99% of bacteria and viruses listed on the product’s label. A sanitizer reduces 99.9% of bacteria, but not viruses, listed on the product label. Sanitizers can leave microscopic amounts of bacteria that can cause illness. Surface disinfectants must pass more rigorous EPA testing requirements and clear a higher bar than surface sanitizing products.

The bottom line? When you want to kill viruses and bacteria on hard surfaces, disinfect – not sanitize.

Read Labels and Follow Directions

Your efforts go to waste if you don’t use the right product correctly. Product labels provide the details you need, such as the bacteria and viruses it will kill. (Different products aim at different viruses and bacteria.) It also tells you how long the disinfectant must remain on the surface before you wipe it off, known as wet or contact time. When a product sits on the surface, it’s hard at work doing what it’s supposed to.

According to infection control experts, a product that has to stay wet for more than two minutes is ineffective. Maintaining more than two minutes of wet time isn’t achievable.

Apply Full Coverage

When applying a disinfectant, it’s essential to cover all high touchpoints completely. An air-assisted electrostatic sprayer gives you the best results. It delivers the disinfectant in a tiny mist and has an electrostatic charge that attracts the disinfectant to cover the surface and in nooks and crannies. The disinfectant can dry on its own with no wiping needed.

Studies have shown using a “spray and wipe” process is less than 50% effective in disinfecting hard surfaces, and typically unsafe for electronics. Electrostatic sprayers with the right disinfectant save time and money while significantly reducing the risk of infection.

Air Purification

With classrooms, locker rooms, gyms and hallways in schools, air purification is another essential piece of a comprehensive school disinfection program. Disinfecting options include equipment attached or retrofitted to the existing HVAC system, and moveable mobile units. Both systems are important and effective.

Mobile units use HEPA filtration, ultraviolet light and charcoal filters that cycle the air in a room 10 to 15 times an hour. The process reduces airborne viruses and bacteria up to 99.99%. Air purification reduces the risk of breathing in a virus or touching a surface where it’s landed and transferring it by hand to mouth, nose or eyes.

Hand Hygiene and Small Device Disinfection

Pairing hand hygiene and small device disinfection is a must to deliver a 1-2 punch to viruses and bacteria. Thorough hand washing means nothing if we’re touching devices like phones, tablets, laptop computers, badges and keys covered with germs.

A study by the University of Arizona found that cell phones carry 7-10 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. According to Business Insider, an average person touches their phone 2600 times per day. That means all those touches on a phone alone transfers viruses and bacteria to hands (even clean ones), which spreads them to everything else touched.

Having students and staff follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for handwashing is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs. Hand sanitizers can reduce germs when soap and water aren’t available. Although the CDC recommends using hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol, some of the alcohol-based options can be toxic over time. One product on the market is alcohol-free and lasts up to eight hours on hands.

When it comes to effectively disinfecting small devices, ultraviolet (UV) light shines – in specific situations. UV light must directly contact on an object within three to five feet, over a precise amount of time, and at the correct dose to be effective. Distance from the light, shadows, or dust prevent UV light from reaching a device and sanitizing. Small, controlled chambers, such as a UV lightbox, which looks like a microwave, make it easy to disinfect many types of small devices, such as classroom tablets, cell phones, pens, pencils and markers. UV is becoming a staple in small device disinfection, it should be implemented in any school disinfection plan.

Unfortunately, many companies promote UV light as a top-tier, all-around disinfectant. It’s not. UV lights, unlike disinfectants, aren’t regulated, leaving some UV light manufacturers to make false and irresponsible claims that aren’t backed by scientific proof.

For example, UV light manufacturers’ studies show that UV light robots marketed to disinfect rooms and large spaces only sanitize, leaving germs that can infect and cause illness. The technology doesn’t achieve the distance, time, and dose required to disinfect the way UV light does in a small, controlled space like a UV lightbox.

There is Much to Learn

There is so much to learn about preventing infections in every environment. That’s why it’s important to work with a reputable company and people who can sort out the correct information and products to help you put together a cost-effective, comprehensive plan that’s right for your school district.  

Watch for future articles to learn more about school disinfection solutions to keep your school district healthy.

About the Author

Ron Romano is president of Safety Net, a West Chester, Ohio, company helping keep people healthy and safe. Ron and his team partner with schools, businesses, hospitals and local governments from around the world, providing disinfection products and expertise. Learn more at