Athletes are usually focused on game plans and matchups, but now they have to worry about illness, too.
The team physicians and trainers in the Sports Medicine department have emphasized preventative measures to keep teams healthy this year.
"We have not really changed what we have done [in the past]," said Chris Jones, director of Sports Medicine.
The physicians and trainers meet with teams before the season to remind them of the proper hygiene practices that help stop the spread of infection, Jones said.
"A lot of things are common sense, but not common practice," he said.
Mike London, head football coach, said: "We hope to hammer the message home that you have to be very mindful about what you do so you do not open yourself up to those issues. Nothing combats [illness] better than educating them about how to minimize those issues."
Posters are displayed in locker rooms to show athletes what a staph or MRSA infection looks like so players know what to look for, Jones said.
"That is one of those things that I think is really education-based," he said. "A lot of it is education and prevention and a little bit of it is luck as well."
The Sports Medicine department is trying to keep people who are sick off the field so they can get better and not infect anyone else on the team, Jones said.
"It is a very communal atmosphere [in athletics]," he said. "If someone is sick, we try to isolate them from the team. We do not want them to be at practice if they are ill because they should be resting and you are just going to transpose that to everyone else."
The message hits home with players when they realize they could miss games and not participate in practice, because everyone wants to be able to play, London said.
During the past few years, an attempt to combat viruses such as staph infections has become a point of emphasis, especially with all the media attention devoted to it, Jones said.
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The Sports Medicine department has facility cleanliness standards and practices that they use to limit infection, Jones said.
"Tables have to be cleaned after each use," Jones said. "We try to clean everything after each use. We have lots of hand sanitizer in the athletic building. I think everything we are doing is common sense."
So far this year, the University of Richmond has confirmed two cases of swine flu, but the sports medicine department has not seen any cases of swine flu or seasonal flu, Jones said.
Other schools have not been as fortunate. In August, Duke University had a confirmed case of a football player with swine flu and two to three dozen players had flu-like symptoms, according to the Associated Press. Almost 400 students at the University of Mississippi developed flu-like symptoms, including at least 30 football players.
"We have not seen a significant difference in illness here throughout this period of time, like other places around the country have," Jones said. "The real key to everything is early detection and prevention."
Contact reporter Stephen Utz at firstname.lastname@example.org
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