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BJJ & Ringworm: What You Need to Know

man in black shirt lying on floor

Ringworm is not a fun subject to talk about. Even dermatologists would probably rather not discuss it. But in BJJ, ringworm is something you need to know about.

It’s a really uncomfortable, ugly and kinda embarrassing thing to get. It’s treatable, but you’re still going to want to do all you can to avoid it.

Read on to learn more.

What is Ringworm?

Ringworm is a fungal infection that occurs on the skin. Worms don’t actually have anything to do with it – it’s causes by a fungus, which gets in and irritates the skin.

It shows up as a red, scaly rash, generally in the shape of a ring (hence the name).

Ringworm can occur anywhere on the body. It’s all basically the same, but has different technical terms for different areas. Tinea corporis means ringworm of the body, tinea capitis is ringworm of the scalp, and tinea cruris is ringworm of the groin (also called jock itch).

There’s also ringworm infections on the feet, called tinea pedis, which is more commonly known as athlete’s foot.

It can spread from one area of the body to others, if not treated straight away. It’s also quite contagious – it’s easy to spread from person to person, and can even spread between people and animals.

What Does it Have to Do With BJJ?

Training Jiu Jitsu is also kinda like training part-time as a doctor.

You’ll come to know a lot about various injuries, to the joints, muscles, etc. You’re also probably going to learn a bit about skin infections. That’s because BJJ mats are a pretty easy environment for skin infections like ringworm to flourish and spread.

There’s a lot of close personal contact going on, so it’s not hard for an infection to spread from one person to another. The damp, sweaty conditions are also great for infections and bacteria to thrive in, unfortunately.

Don’t let that scare you away from training BJJ, though. Good hygiene, and other preventable measures can help you avoid too much trouble with infections during your Jiu Jitsu career.

How to Prevent Ringworm in BJJ (and Other Skin Infections)

While it’s definitely a danger when you regularly train Jiu Jitsu, ringworm can be avoided. Here are some things you can do to help.

Maintain Good Hygiene

Simple hygiene practices can help keep yourself and your training partners safe. Wash every day. More specifically, wash your Gi and other training gear after every training session. It’s not enough to just hang it up and air it out – you want to kill off any conditions that will allow bacteria and fungus to thrive.

Of course, you’re still going to need to trust your training partners to keep good hygiene as well. But start with what you can control – and that’s your own hygiene.

Stay off the Mats When You Have an Infection

It should go without saying, but if you have a skin infection, such as ringworm, stay away from training.

It’s too common for people to keep training even when they have an infection. Especially when someone’s training for a competition, and feel like they can’t give up a day of training.

It’s inconsiderate, and so easy to cause gym-wide spread. If people find out that you trained with ringworm, you’re not going to be popular.

Again, this doesn’t really help you avoid ringworm in BJJ. But if you expect others to stop the spread of ringworm, the least you can do is play your part and do the same.

Clean the Mats

Cleaning your gym’s mats after every training session will definitely help stop the spread of infections.

It’s not going to do the job completely. You can still have impeccably clean mats, and it only takes one bozo to come to training with ringworm to spread it to everyone else. But again, clean mats definitely help.

Wear Shoes Off the Mats

I hope your gym has a strict “no bare feet off the mats” policy. This is one of the easiest ways to spread bacteria, fungus and other dirty stuff all over the mats.

People go and walk around, perhaps go to the locker room or (gasp) even the bathroom, in bare feet. Then they come back on the mats, and everything their feet picked up along the way is now spread to the mats, where everyone is rolling around.

It should be an unconditional rule that you wear shoes or flip flops when you’re not on the mats (and no shoes on the mats). If your gym doesn’t police this, you might want to think about moving to another gym.

Wash Up As Soon As Possible After Training

One thing that helps a lot is showering as soon as you can after training.

If you get exposed to ringworm on the mats, it won’t necessarily lead to an infection right away. You may still have a window where you can clean away any bacteria or fungus before it takes hold.

I’ve specifically noticed this during my time training BJJ. A couple of times I’ve gotten a skin infection, and it’s usually when I’ve had a 30+ minute walk/drive home after class, before I get to take a shower.

Now I always try to shower directly after class. It may be more comfortable to shower at home, but if you can shower at your gym, you’re going to be a lot safer.

Use Antibacterial/Antifungal Soaps

When you train BJJ, it’s a good idea to invest in antibacterial or antifungal soaps or body washes.

These soaps are more powerful than your average block of Dove. They contain special ingredients that are designed to fight off infections, fungus and and bacteria.

It’s a little extra cost compared to your regular soaps you get from the supermarket, but when you get a skin infection, you’ll wish you paid that little bit more.

Defense Soap is a great choice, used by a lot of people in the BJJ community. I also recommend Submission Soap from Gold BJJ, which is specifically made for BJJ athletes, and the types of fungus and bacteria you usually come across on the mats.

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For more options to consider, check out this post.

Wear a Rash Guard, Spats (and Maybe Even Socks)

Finally, it won’t protect you 100%, but limiting the amount of surface area for your skin to be exposed can help lower the chances you pick up any infections.

That’s what compression gear in BJJ really helps with. As well as improving performance, they cover your arms and legs, and stop a lot of dirty stuff from getting to your skin. With moisture-wicking tech in the fabric (as most BJJ spats and rash guards have), it keeps your skin dry, and doesn’t allow the moist conditions for bacteria or fungus to flourish.

Here are some of my recommendations.

For Rash Guards, I recommend Gold BJJ’s camo series. They’re made from good quality material, are lightweight and breathable, and are pretty affordable. Make sure to get a long-sleeved one for best protection against ringworm.

No products found.

For BJJ Spats, I’m a big fan of Raven Fightwear. They just look great, and perform well also.

Raven Fightwear Men's Fire Element BJJ MMA Spats Large Black
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Raven Fightwear Men's Fire Element BJJ MMA Spats Large Black
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  • Four way stretch fabric stretches in all directions allowing for maximum range of motion

Finally, you might also want to wear some specially made grappling socks. Not just for keeping your feet warm, they also help prevent the nasty stuff from getting to your feet. This is great if you’ve got cuts or abrasions (like mat burn) on your feet, or if you just want to prevent getting mat burn.

Treatments for Ringworm in BJJ

If you get ringworm, don’t panic. It’s usually quite easily treated, and you’ll be back on the mats before long.

You’ll want to see your doctor and have them give you a proper diagnosis, as well as recommending the right treatment. They’ll usually recommend you a simple over the counter medication, such as:

  • Clotrimazole
  • Miconazole
  • Terbinafine
  • Ketoconazole

These are the active ingredients used to treat ringworm, and come under a variety of brand names. They’re generally a cream, lotion or powder, which you’ll apply to the affected area for a set period of time.

More serious cases, or cases in specific areas of the body, may need a prescription medication taken by mouth. Again, you’ll want to get the specific information from a medical professional.

Aside from this, if you get ringworm, you should:

a) stay off the mats. Take a break, and use this as an opportunity to refresh and fix up any other lingering injuries

b) step up your overall hygiene game. Wash your sheets, towels, clothes, etc, and make sure you’re being thorough with your personal hygiene.

Just be smart about it.

Summing Up: Ringworm in Jiu Jitsu

Ringworm in BJJ is an ugly topic, but it’s worth knowing about. Often simple measures can help prevent getting a case of ringworm, which is annoying and unpleasant.

Make sure you maintain good personal hygiene, and good hygiene practices at the gym. Hopefully your teammates will do the same, and altogether, you’ll keep a clean and healthy gym where skin infections and ringworm are kept to a minimum.

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