Basketballs and volleyballs can spread potentially dangerous germs among players, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have claimed.
The study by University of California-Irvineresearchers may bring a new awareness to athletes, coaches, trainers and parents regardingsafe sanitation practices for athletes.
Scientists selected Staphylococcus aureus, a germ known for causing staph infections in athletes, for the study.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly referred to as MRSA, is a kind of staph that is particularly worrisome because of its resistance to many antibiotics.
During the study, the researchers analysed the germ threat on volleyballs and basketballs, the players' hands and the gym floor.
For each phase of the study, two of the three surfaces were sterilised, and the third was left in its native state. Germicidal Ultraviolet 'C' (UVC) light was used to sterilise the ball and the floor tiles, whereas hands were sanitised by washing with antibacterial soap.
Staph aureus cultures were then sampled from all three surfaces. Next, the players dribbled and passed the ball in a specified pattern and duration to simulate actual sports play.
In each study, the previously sterile surfaces accumulated more Staph aureus through play. Moreover, the investigators discovered that Staph aureus was capable of surviving on the sports ball after 72 hours in storeroom conditions.
"The overwhelming prevalence of Staph aureus we encountered supports our understanding of the gym environment as a reservoir of germs," study supervisor Joshua A Cotter said.
"Institutions, coaches, and athletes should take note of the role the sports ball can play as a vehicle for the transmission of potentially life-threatening germs," Cotter said.
Although not part of this research, Cotter added that other dangerous bacteria and viruses may also be spread among athletes.
The research was presented by graduating biological sciences student Nimesh Patel at the American College of Sports Medicine national conference in May, 2013.