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HIV, Wrestling, and other Sports

Dec 3, 1996

While I am at this site I would like to pose this question to any professional out there who would like to reply. Wrestling is a sport that I enjoy very much. Is it safe to wrestle with a person who is HIV positive. Am I placing my life in jeopardy by being in this situation.


Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

In regard to sports and HIV, there really is not that much to tell since the risk of HIV is normally very low in a sports setting. In most sports, the liklihood of blood-to-blood transmission is very unlikely. Also in many sports, when a player is bleeding, they are not permitted to play again until they stop bleeding (this includes wrestling).

The only sport that has requirements for HIV testing is in professional boxing, and even that is only done in certain states. This was never a big issue until the Tommy Morrison announcement when he stated he tested positive for HIV. He was applying to box in Nevada. The Nevada State Athletic Commission requires boxers to test negative for HIV in order to receive medical clearance to box. Because boxing has such a high potential for bleeding to occur, testing has been instituted in Nevada and other professional boxing states. If a boxer were to bleed, the other boxer, the referee, and the persons in the front row of the ring would be at risk of infection. So although HIV has never been transmitted through boxing, because of the high potential for spread of blood, several states have instituted preventative measures so other persons don't get exposed to HIV through professional boxing matches.

In regard to diving/swimming, there was some concern when Greg Loughanis, who was already HIV positive at the time, cut his head open when he hit his head on the diving board during the Olympics. Even in this case, there was no risk to the subsequent divers. This was because Greg's blood was diluted by the huge amount of water in the diving pool. In addition, HIV will not survive outside the human body for more than a few minutes. The chlorine in the pool may have also had some effect against the HIV in the pool. The only potential for risk occurred when the doctor who stitched Greg up wasn't wearing latex gloves while doing it. This was a breach of universal precautions (proper infection control guidelines), and he should have been wea ring gloves at the time. So even in diving/swimming, there is little, if any, risk to others entering the pool.

In other sports, the players are usually wearing protective clothing (football is a good example), or the liklihood of exposure to blood is very small (tennis is a good example of that). In sports like wrestling, if a wrestler is bleeding, the match is supposed to stop to prevent blood from going from one wrestler to the other. Players who are bleeding should not be permitted to wrestle until they are no longer bleeding.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS

Spreading HIV Intentionally
transmission through sweat pores

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