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Rockville Doctors Make Locker Rooms Safe With Extreme Science

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Dr. Stacy Plum, left, and Dr. Niveen Mulholland, founders of Extreme Science, help to curb dangerous bacteria that grows in locker rooms.
Thom Cich
Dr. Stacy Plum, left, and Dr. Niveen Mulholland, founders of Extreme Science, help to curb dangerous bacteria that grows in locker rooms.

Sports injuries are often associated with crushing tackles on the football field, but dangers lurk in the quiet corners of the locker room too.

Dr. Niveen Mulholland, of Rockville, says sports facilities are a hot bed of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

"Bacteria like to grow in hot, humid, damp environments and a lot of locker rooms have exactly that," said Mulholland. Along with her partner Dr. Stacy Plum, Dr. Mulholland runs Extreme Science, a company that aims to keep MRSA out of sports facilities. Dr. Plum says the bacteria is extremely dangerous because of its resistance to many treatments.

"If it does spread through your body and it's not able to be controlled by antibiotics, it can in extreme situations result in a fatality," says Dr. Plum.

Even in more mild cases, MRSA can still cause major problems for athletes said Neal Owens, a football coach at Richard Montgomery High.

"One kid got it pretty seriously in his knee and missed 6 games, and it was his senior year, said Owens. "He had to be hospitalized, he was on an IV drip, it can be serious."

MRSA can be eliminated, but Mulholland says it requires more than your standard scrub-down.

"In every disinfectant that we've encountered, it clearly states that it kills 99.9% of bacteria," said Mulholland. "Well, that .1% is very important because bacteria are living organisms that double and grow."

So Extreme Science tests for the presence of MRSA and teaches players to prevent it. A lot of it boils down to basic hygiene: Don't share towels. Cover up sores. Mulholland says even something simple like a quick shower can help.

"Kids just do not shower after practice, after games," said Mulholland. "By the time you get home and get around to showering, it's too late and you've contracted it."

So while athletes may not have the means to completely eliminate MRSA, the doctors say with a little education and prevention, they can help keep the locker room safe.

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