Blake Flovin, a 17-year-old high school wrestler from San Jose, competed in a wrestling tournament in mid February of this year.  Sadly according to Flovin, that would be his last tournament.  “I’m never going to wrestle again,” he told NBC in a recent news report that revealed he had contracted “mat herpes,” in that very tournament.

Blake Flovin with his parents in Sunnyvale, CA

The scientific name for the virus is “herpes gladiatorum.” It is passed on by skin-to-skin contact or saliva.  It resulted in dozens of red spots all over Flovin’s face.

How could this have been prevented?

The rules require that regular skin check ups be conducted at least 6 times prior to matches taking place. Flovin explained that in order to qualify, some students try to cover their rashes with bandages or make up but once the virus has infected your skin, it will stay with you for the rest of your life. “I don’t want other kids to get this. It’s not worth it to put the wrestlers at risk when this is totally preventable.”  Needless to say, Flovin’s parents are fighting for more intense protocols in South Bay schools.

A study conducted by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology concluded that 73.6% of skin infections in high school athletes are due to wrestling. Wrestlers have the highest number of infections in high school sports, followed at a close second by football players.

What exactly is “mat herpes?” According to the Allegheny County Health Department, it “is a skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus.” Once infected, it only takes about 8 days to start appearing for some and others longer. The first signs of this disease may also manifest as a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever or tingling on the skin. In order to prevent the spread of this disease it is crucial to maintain good personal hygiene as well as the proper methods of equipment disinfection. Anyone with a skin sore or lesion should not compete and get checked immediately. If better precautions were in place, this could possibly have been prevented. We are unaware if tests were conducted on the equipment and how stringent they were if they were indeed conducted. Flovin will now live with this virus as there is no cure. It is hoped that better precautions are put in place moving forward to prevent such devastating outcomes.