Medical Q&As

Animal manure - disease risks?

What are the health risks to us when playing on a field riddled with horse manure? I'll explain. The football pitch we are assigned has between 20 and 30 horses roaming freely around on it. There is horse manure all over the place. What diseases can be caught in an environment like this?

Animal manure contains many viruses, bacteria and parasites. Some of these are more important than others and I would identify Clostridium tetani as being the most serious of these pathogens. As the name suggests that is the bacterium that causes tetanus and it is commonly found in soil that is contaminated with manure. Therefore the most important preventive step is for your players to be fully vaccinated against tetanus. Also, alert your players to wear a dressing over any cuts or abrasions on their skin before going on to the field of play. An uncovered wound is a happy breeding ground for various pathogens. Also make sure that any cuts sustained by a player on the field of play are cleaned with antiseptic and covered with a dressing before the player returns to the pitch. It is also important that players wash their hands before they consume any snacks or drinks after the match. I realize that such advice sounds unrealistic given the almost complete absence of washing facilities at most playing fields. But it is an unavoidable fact that many pathogens enter the body by the contamination of food with dirty hands. It is probably not useful to list all of the diseases that you could catch in the circumstances you describe because the list of potential diseases would be quite long. However, proper first aid to wounds and attention to hand hygiene should prevent virtually all of them. Above all else make sure that all of your players are protected against tetanus. Finally, it might not be any harm to tell the players to go easy on the sliding tackles!