Much has been said, written, tweeted, and flashed across hundreds of millions of computer screens and television sets regarding the pandemic effect of the coronavirus over the last several weeks. However, not much has been said about leveraging our coronavirus fear to become more mindful regarding other diseases.
The obvious questions of contagiousness, mortality rate, and virus mutations tend to surface time and time again. With all of the anxiety, sickness, and even death that has resulted from its worldwide spread, the basketball community needs to heed the warning of staying healthy while on the court and in the gym.
The corona-virus represents an opportunity to learn more about the spread of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. For most of us, this wake-up call should serve as a strong reminder of the importance of great hygiene and the regular practice of healthy lifestyle behaviors. We can do just that by diligently exercising certain precautionary measures and strengthening the immune system. The best way to avoid a pathogen is to play great defense as it relates to your overall health.
“Social distancing” is the reduction or avoidance of contact with other people in order to keep transmission down. It has become the new norm in the corona-virus era in which we find ourselves. Some people are distancing themselves 3-4 feet from others whereas, greater than 6-feet may be a better option given most droplets from a sneeze or cough may travel up to six-feet from the infected. Although probably not necessary, this may not be a bad idea to practice during the height of the cold and seasonal flu season where you live.
Many “basketball-related” health conditions can be averted with proper self-care. The following practices will help you avoid the transmission of viruses (flu, cold), bacteria (staph infections – i.e. MRSA, strep), and fungi (athlete’s foot) that are common on basketball courts and in gyms and locker rooms. Basketball season also coincides with the seasonal flu, cold, and allergy seasons giving rise to all sorts of potential illnesses.
In order to be successful implementing the following ninety-six health practices, you must be intentional and mindful about how you live out your life. The corona-virus, for now, has created a new way of living out life day-to-day. So, step back, take a deep breath and begin practicing these recommendations. They will go a long way to making you healthy, feel great, and perform your best on the court.
How Can I Reduce Infections From Basketball & Off Court Activity?
Take Basketball Hygiene Seriously
2. Wash your hands, thoroughly and frequently! Sing Happy Birthday twice (45-seconds) for the duration of your washing. Make sure you wash the front and back of both hands and each finger and fingertip individually.
3. In addition to hand washing, use a hand sanitizer throughout the day whenever you cannot wash your hands! Note: Hand sanitizers will not kill all of the germs on your skin.
4. Get the flu shot!
5. Avoid direct contact with heavily used public items such as, doorknobs, toilet handles, pencils, pens, water fountains, other people’s cell phones, etc. Use a towel or paper towel to operate the device to prevent the potentially contaminated surface.
6. Do not share water bottles with other players/people!
7. Avoid cuts and scratches on your skin! If you get one, make sure you treat it with the proper ointment, bandaging, and stitching, if necessary. Cuts and scratches can lead to easy transmission of microorganisms.
8. Avoid breathing on other players or gym-mates or allowing them to breathe on you while working out or on the court!
9. If you’re feeling sick or that your body may be fighting off a pathogen, stay at home, don’t go to the gym!
10. Do not touch your face! Playing basketball may create facial sweat, the occasional common itch, the removal of a mouthpiece, and other possible reasons to drive your hands to your face. Wear a mask if you have to in order to avoid touching your face!
11. Do not shake anyone’s hand! An elbow bump, head nod, foot “shake,” or handshake mime with an explanation as to why you are not shaking hands will be understood.
12. Stay hydrated! The amount you should be drinking depends on several factors: how much basketball you are playing and working out, the climate you live in (the higher the temperature and/or humidity, the more water you need), your age, gender, and body size.
Strengthen your immune system for basketball performance gains
14. Make sure that you are never barefoot in a locker room! Wear flip-flops or shower shoes because this is where the athlete’s foot fungus flourishes. The symptoms of athlete’s foot include a rash and itching, flaking skin. If an open sore results, additional infections may occur.
15. Make sure your basketball shoes are dry when you put them on to play!
17. Do not share towels or shoes with other players!
18. Wear socks that wick sweat away from your skin!
19. Note: Specifically, to avoid staph infections (MRSA), practice all of the steps for preventing athlete’s foot above. Additionally, insist that all the exercise equipment that you use for your weight room workouts is clean and avoid saunas or hot tubs if you have a cut or abrasion. Certain microbes love warm temperatures.
Treat Your Immune System with Tender Loving Care
20. occurs when your white blood cells kick into protection mode against infection from microorganisms, injuries, and toxins. It also triggers the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue which is an essential part of the body’s immune response. Processed foods and added sugar cause inflammation so cleaning up your diet will help prevent chronic inflammation.
21. Chronic Inflammation occurs when the natural inflammatory process fails to turn off when it should. This prolonged “on” mode of the immune system can begin damaging cells, tissues, and even organs. Some diseases associated with chronic inflammation are cancer, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases – Alzheimer’s disease. Sources known for reducing chronic inflammation include fatty acids (fish oil), , and alpha lipoic acid.
22. is a complex system of the gastrointestinal tract that consists of 10+ trillion bacteria and the genes encoded therein. Within each person are good and bad bacteria. When an imbalance (dysbiosis) of these bacteria occurs, diseases such as, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease results. The microbiome and the immune system strongly influence one another and often dictate the direction of your health. As your microbiome goes, so goes your health.
Avoid These Losing Behaviors
24. Chronic stress – Acute stress is considered a normal part of life and can be healthy at times, i.e. meet a deadline at work, escape a life-threatening situation, etc. Stress suppresses white blood cell functioning which is an integral part of the immune system. When stress becomes a chronic, low-grade condition, inflammation begins and sets the table for chronic health conditions such as, asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.
25. Smoking or VAPING– Smoking weakens the immune system and therefore, increases the risk of respiratory infections. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes damage the immune system of smokers leading to an increased risk of the flu and pneumonia. Smoking also leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is a severe form of lung inflammation. Some research has actually found that smoking activates the immune system causing it to attack lung tissue leading to other diseases comparable to COPD. Keep in mind… this includes marijuana!
26. Insufficient Basketball Court Time or Irregular Exercise – Frequent moderate-to-vigorous . However, too much exercise will actually reduce immune function by increasing inflammation and oxidative stress making you more susceptible to illness. Epidemiologic studies repeatedly indicate that regular exercise and pneumonia. Also, habitual exercise is associated with a lowered inflammatory response to bacteria, longer white blood cell telomere lengths, and increased T-cell proliferative capacity indicating a boost in immune function.
27. Poor Diet – A diet high in processed and fast foods, sugar, industrial seed oils, and grains weaken the immune system by creating gut disruption, inflammation, and dysbiosis in the microbiome. This diet is better known as the Standard American Diet (SAD). Its impact on the immune system can be devastating and may lead to challenging diseases.
Eliminating sugar, industrial seed oils, and grains from your diet will go a long way in improving your overall health and basketball game by strengthening your immune system. When coupled with the other items on this list, it becomes a formidable opponent to any pathogen in its way.
29. Obesity – According to , “Obesity, like other states of malnutrition, is known to impair the immune function, altering leucocyte counts as well as cell-mediated immune responses. In addition, evidence has arisen that an altered immune function contributes to the pathogenesis of obesity.”
30. Alcohol Consumption – Alcohol is an immune system suppressor. One serving of alcohol is known to alter your gut microbiome. Excessive consumption will undoubtedly put you at high risk of immune-related health problems such as, , cancer, alcoholic fatty liver disease, slower healing capabilities, life-threatening infections, and more.
31. Lack of Sleep – Sufficient is one of the best things you can do to keep your immune system running strong. Most doctors recommend 7-9 hours each night for good health. Nights limited to only 4-5 hours of sleep increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. A physical and mental fatigue due to sleeplessness will also greatly reduce your performance on the basketball court and in the classroom or boardroom.
Score Big with These Foods
32. Grass-Fed Butter
34. Liver from Grass-Fed Animals
35. Eggs from Grass-Fed Hens
37. Fish Eggs
38. Whole Raw Milk from Grass-Fed Cows
39. Bone Broth
40. Wild Salmon
41. Whole Yogurt or Kefir
42. Beef from Grass-Fed Steers
44. Organic Beets
Note: This list was taken from . Although this may not sound like the most appetizing list of foods, it certainly provides the nutrition needed for a strong and healthy immune system. Some additional foods would include:
46. Organic Cinnamon
47. Organic Sweet Potatoes
48. Organic Blueberries
49. Organic Almonds
50. Green Tea
51. Organic Ginger
52. Dark Chocolate
53. Organic Garlic
54. Organic Kale
55. Organic Spinach
56. Organic Cauliflower
57. Organic Swiss Chard
58. Organic Coconut Oil
59. Organic Walnuts
60. Wild-Caught Sardines
Ask Your Doctor About These Supplements To Boost Your Immunity System (May Not Be Suitable For Children or Adults)
62. Cod Liver Oil
82. Zinc Acetate
Note: Before taking these supplements or any others, consult with your healthcare professional for recommended amounts and their safety for certain age groups.
Learn and Heed The Importance of The Numbers
83. 36,000,000 – 51,000,000 cases of influenza
84. 370,000 – 670,000 hospitalizations due to influenza
85. 22,000 – 55,000 deaths from influenza
87. Approximately 50% of people report recurring MRSA infections.
88. In the U.S., 90,000 infections are directly related to MRSA.
89. Staph infections are responsible for 19,000 deaths a year.
90. According to the CDC, approximately 33% of Americans are carriers showing no symptoms.
91. Non-Invasive Group A Streptococcus – Strep
96. Approximately 7 out of 10 people will develop athlete’s foot at some point in time.
97. The same fungus that causes athlete’s foot is the same one that causes ringworm and jock itch.
98. Untreated athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of the body, like up the legs or to the hands, for example.
Use Personal Cleaning Products that Promote Good Health
Note: This is an example list only. There are plenty of quality products that offer healthy ingredients on the market.
To stay healthy, feel great, and prevent a plethora of diseases, a wide range of healthy practices must be employed. Therefore, the intent of this article is to identify certain health conditions that basketball players tend to encounter and how they may best be prevented. The methodology may extend far beyond these specific conditions.
Although not guaranteed a life free of disease and discomfort, these recommendations improve one’s chances of contracting certain illnesses. These healthy lifestyle guidelines apply to all people to optimize their overall health. Fear has a way of propelling us to action or paralyzing us into inaction. Hopefully, we can use the above information to catapult us to great health.
May God’s grace strengthen, restore, and comfort you.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to draw awareness to viruses, bacteria, and parasites, their impact on basketball players, and how to best avoid them. Preventative measure tips are provided on hygiene and lifestyle behaviors. The information above is not intended to serve as a treatment plan for disease. Always consult your licensed physician or healthcare professional if you think you have become infected or you are at high risk of becoming infected with one of the above microorganisms.
Rusty Gregory, MS, CSCS is the coauthor of (Wiley Publishing). He received his B.S. (Commercial and Industrial Fitness, Minor in Health Education) in 1989 from Texas Tech University and his M.S. (Kinesiology) in 1991 from the University of Michigan. In 1991, he began his personal training business in Austin, Texas, and became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). In 1995, he opened Forte Personal Fitness, a private personal fitness studio where he trains athletes from a multitude of sports and people of all ages, health backgrounds, and physical limitations.