What is Wrestler’s Herpes or Herpes Gladiatorum?

Dear Dr. Tom:

This is in reference to Herpes being passed through contact of sweaty bodies, specifically in a martial arts/wrestling arena: 1.Is this Herpes Gladitorii(sp?)? 2.Since one of my fellow students has been diagnosed with this strain and I have recently noticed two Herpetic lesions on my arm, what precautions should I take to a.) not spread it to my girlfriend, with whom I sleep? i.e. Do I need to change the sheets daily, sleep away from her until this possible infestation has passed, bandage the area…? b.) not spread it to my training partners? c.) not spread it to other parts of my body? 3.Treatment/management suggestions?
Thanks, possibly cursed

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Possibly Cursed:

First of all, let me assure you that you are not cursed. The correct term is herpes gladiatorum, and it is also designated as traumatic herpes or wrestler?s herpes. The preventive precautions would be the same as for any other herpetic infection: keep the infective virus away from any potentially susceptible, non-infected recipient. This means protected sex and appropriate cleanliness. I doubt if your sheets become as grimy as wrestling mats can be, but this infection has been transmitted to wrestlers from the mats. Changing the sheets with such zealous regularity would certainly be of assistance to the prevention of spread, and I doubt if touching your girlfriend would be as traumatic as a wrestling bout. Local treatment of the lesions would be the same as for any other herpes outbreak, as directed by your personal doctor. The infection can be spread to your partners; that’s why it’s named herpes gladiatorum. You might talk to your doctor (or preferentially to a dermatologist) about use of one of the antiviral creams which are intended for cutaneous use only. My sources indicate these have no prophylactic benefit, and they should not be used in the eye. Such material on your skin would seem eventually to find its way into another wrestler’s eyes. Infected persons can auto-inoculate other parts of their bodies, but this can be curtailed by remembering not to rub one’s (especially) eyes, anal and penile tissues if/when active lesions are present on hands. Treatment and management would be as for any other herpetic infection, especially trying to avoid contact with others when you have lesions. Some but not all infected persons are shedders. You might be one of those who could be non-infectious in the absence of symptoms. The safest course for all others is for an infected person to consider him/herself capable of transmitting the virus at all times.


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