Do the clothes you keep in your locker get washed about as often as an Al Qaeda member? "If you stack the deck in favor of the bacteria, eventually, you're gonna lose," says Dr. Robert Palacios, team physician for Seton Hall University.
Ball 'em up for even two days and . . .
Tinea cruris, the infection that causes jock itch, is on the way. "It's everywhere in locker rooms," says Dr. Palacios. Even worse? "Once you leave your shorts, especially bike shorts, in your locker for a long time, they harbor e-coli, strep, and staph." Have a cut? Those bacteria can do serious damage. "God forbid you get an invasive strep, otherwise known as a flesh-eating, strep-type of infection," says the morbid medicine man. The fix: Treat them like you would swim trunksÂa simple rinse and airing should do.
Lock 'em up for even a day and . . .
Tinea corporis, otherwise known as ringworm, and folliculitis, a skin infection around the hair follicles that causes acnelike eruptions, can be expected the next time you gear up. Your back will make Edward James Olmos' skin look smooth. The fix: Replaying a T-shirt could be OK, so long as you shower after wearing.
Let 'em stew more than seven days and . . .
Tinea pedis, commonly known as athlete's foot, a fungus that breaks down the skin, is almost guaranteed. Untreated for weeks, athlete's foot can lead to an infection called cellulitis, which results in red, swollen, blistered dogs. The fix: If you must rerun your socks, soak 'em in Lotrimin first.
Let 'em fester more than three weeks and . . .
Dyes and chemicals can leech out onto the skin, which over time lead to allergies. Once your feet are allergic, even a few hours of sweating in gym shoes can trigger a poison-ivy-like reaction. And not the X-rated Alyssa Milano kind of poison ivy, either. The fix: Let 'em breathe on top of the locker.
Leave 'em laying for more than a day and . . .
E-coli. Most are benign, but certain strains are as nasty as Bill Romanowski. "We call it a fecal-oral transmission," says Dr. Palacios. "You just have to get a little on your hands, and an hour later, you wipe sweat off your face and that starts the process." It's not likely, but if you're one of the lucky ones, your prize is a week of abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea! The fix: No fix. If washing them is too much to ask, chuck 'em and start over.