Staph skin infections due to methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections are a well-documented complication of participation on athletic teams, with football teams, in particular, emerging as a common population in which MRSA outbreaks occur.
In a study of a MRSA outbreak among players on a college football team (Begier et al. 2004), researchers from the Centers for Disease Control, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and Sacred Heart University, found that MRSA infection appeared to be facilitated by interruption of skin integrity, including those caused by body shaving, with players who reported body shaving 6.1 time more likely to develop MRSA infections. Shaving genitals or the groin was associated with a higher infection risk than shaving other body sites.
Although some athletes (e.g. swimmers) practice body shaving to enhance performance, body shaving is largely a cosmetic practice among football players and other young men. (Gomes 2001) The shaving likely produces microabrasions. Studies have previously documented an increased risk of postoperative infection associated with shaving surgical sites, but the 2004 study was the first to conclusively link body shaving to infection among athletes.
Because body shaving was an emerging cosmetic behavior among young men which may contribute to the risk of infection among athletes, the study's authors suggested that education regarding the risk of body shaving for participants in contact sports should be considered.
Begier et al. 2004. A High-Morbidity Outbreak of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus among Players on a College Football Team, Facilitated by Cosmetic Body Shaving and Turf Burns. Clin Inf Dis. 2004;39:1446-53
Gomes L. That thicket of hair just spoils the view of all those muscles - many young men are taking it off to look like guys in the pages of Men's Health. Wall Street Journal, September 5, 2001:A1.