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Monday, October 22, 2007

Should MRSA concern us?

As a mountain biker I frequently and proudly sport the many scratches, bumps and bruises that occur during the rigors of trail riding; so it's common for my forearms and shins to be scratched as well as numerous cuts and bruises decorating them; but could I be exposing myself to a deadly bacterial infection so severe that it's known as the 'flesh eating disease' and is capable of destroying skin, muscle and even lead to lost limbs or death?

There's been a lot of talk of MSRA lately after it's shown up in some local schools , and I just got done reading this terrifying ABC news story about MSRA, a skin infection so severe that it can destroy skin, muscle and lead to lost limbs or death; it is also known as the 'super bug' and 'flesh eating disease'.

So exactly what is it? MSRA is serious staph infection highly resistant to antibiotics. Staph infections, usually associated with post surgery complications, is more frequently occurring in the form of skin infections outside of any medical environment.

So how do you contract it? Either directly from person to person or from an object or area contaminated by the infected. In addition MSRA typically needs an opportunity to take hold; like an opening in the skin, something very typical for Mountain Bikers that like to ride hard.

As I read the article I began examining the many cuts and abrasions doled out to me during last month's Month of Mud race series. Does my sport put me at significantly greater risk? So with a little research I uncovered a few things and it certainly raised my concern:

From the Center For Disease Control Web Site:

Are certain people at increased risk for community-associated staph or MRSA infections?

CDC has investigated clusters of CA-MRSA skin infections among athletes, military recruits, children, prisonors... factors that have been associated with the spread of MRSA skin infections include: close skin-to-skin contact, openings in the skin such as cuts or abrasions, contaminated items ...

How common are staph and MRSA infections?

The majority of MRSA infections occur among patients in hospitals or other healthcare settings; however, it is becoming more common in the community setting. Data from a prospective study in 2003, suggests that 12% of clinical MRSA infections are community-associated, but this varies by geographic region and population.

Can I get a staph or MRSA infection at my health club?

In the outbreaks of MRSA, the environment has not played a significant role in the transmission of MRSA. MRSA is transmitted most frequently by direct skin-to-skin contact. You can protect yourself from infections by practicing good hygiene (e.g., keeping your hands clean by washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub and showering after working out); covering any open skin area such as abrasions or cuts with a clean dry bandages.

So what have we learned? Well typically if you do a lot of your riding in emergency rooms, hospitals or health care facilities, be aware you are at serious risk of contracting an MSRA infection.

As for the rest of us:

1) MSRA infections typically don't originate from sliding around in the dirt.

For Mountain Bikers this is good news! Because MRSA is most commonly spread through skin to skin contact, topping off your wound with mud and trail dirt isn't predisposing you, but because a dirty wound won't heal as fast, getting it cleaned up and covered reduces your risk.

2) Our cuts and scratches, typically to the forearms may put us at risk.

This is bad news. We typically touch our forearms with our hands that often make contact with others and bare forearms also brush up against others. These briar and undergrowth lashing could provide an opening for MRSA.

3) Don't pick your scabs.

Just like your mother told you, don't pick your scabs! Picking at that itchy scab with dirty MRSA contaminated hands may not be good idea (Seriously) and this is not just my own deduction; Dr Ripple of DePauw University agrees.

Ok I'm no medical expert and these are simply my own conclusions, so take them for what it's worth. Now that I've made you feel adequately gross and uncomfortable; go wash hands! And don't forget to use a clean towel.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Moraine Month of Mud #5

Last Sunday was the fifth and final race of the 2007 Month of Mud series. I made it out to all five (let me congratulate myself... ). For me it's been a short but fantastic season. I didn't start riding until end of June.

Moraine was an awesome course. Several long gradual climbs a few steep sections and then there were the rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks and rocks, tons of creeping and pushing your wheels between rocks and boulders. There were too many to power through, after bouncing around for a bit you tired and had to slow down and pick your way through. It required strength, balance and lots of bike handling. It was like a trials course in the middle of a cross country race. A lot were getting off and pushing but walking my bike makes me so damn tired; I put it in the granny gear and worked my way through as best I could; stalling occasionally, but I felt everything there was very ridable you just had to relax, concentrate and take your time. I didn't find getting off and pushing was saving me any time or energy. This strategy apparently paid off. I did far better in the standings in this race than any others in the series.

So I road most of the rock gardens on the first lap but tired and not in top shape, I was forced to walk a few sections on the second . My favorite were the big rocks close to the finish, it's what I called the billy goat section. You had to scramble up and over one giant rock after another.

By the second lap for many of the riders fatigue set in and the silence of the forest was interrupted with shrieks and screams as tired riders lost balance and smashed down onto rocks. I've never experience anything like this in a race but the pain smashing against the rocks compelled people to vocalize. For the back of the pack riders it was like a war zone, riders going down everywhere, but they were the real troopers; they might not have had the endurance and the agility but they were out there in the rocks giving it everything they had going up against that trail.

Moraine was challenging but a great course to ride. For the squeamish, I would have to say go out and test yourself. This course will test you and you will be glad you did it.

So the racing season is over for me but not the riding. I bought a 15watt Nite Rider halogen to counter the short days and lack of day light. I have no plans of reverting back to my chair sitting, mouse pushing, keyboard tapping days.

One word about single speeders who rode this course. [Expletive] WOW! I wouldn't believe it possible to ride that trail but the rider with the best time was riding on one speed! He beat the top expert time. Can I shake your hand! Your are a !@##$# machine! Holy ---- !!!!! You can not be human! You are a freak of nature and a natural @$%@## wOndeR!!!! Damn!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Brady's Run, Month of Mud #4

Month of Mud lived up to it's name, a misty morning followed by a light rain less than an hour before the start put a nice slick coating on the trail making roots and log crossing like ice. This was a fantastic race; Brady's run had all the elements of a classic mountain bike course. A big long climb, some double track to spread out the riders, tight winding single track, plenty of log crossings, sections of fast booking it single track, mud, roots, rocks and a screaming downhill to top it all off. The course went two loops and ran around 8 - 10 miles.

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