Del. Schools Sanitizing Gear for Safety of Student Athletes - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Schools Sanitizing Gear for Safety of Student Athletes

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - There's no doubt kids get dirty playing sports.

Cleaning their uniforms - shirts, pants, socks - is easy. Throw it in the washing machine. But cleaning their gear is another story.

Dirty gear is a safety hazard for kids and some schools in Delaware are doing something about it.

For Ed Manzi, owner of Smyrna-based Sports Defenders, the idea to clean gear, not just uniforms, came from home.

"My son is an ice hockey goalie. His equipment came home. It was nasty. It stunk," he said. "We spend all this money all this money on our athletes keeping them safe with protective gear. The thing we don't think about is what's living in their gear."

What's living in the gear can lead to serious medical issues, like staph infections, for example, MRSA.

Manzi's sanitizing process does more than a superficial cleansing. It disinfects deep into equipment.

"The majority of it is shoulder pads and helmets. Some teams have the leg pads that go in there. Some have the all-in-one girdle," Manzi said.

Eight delaware districts use his company. Jeff Savage, athletic director at Dover High School, says most schools at one point or another have dealt with staph infection outbreaks.

"We wanted to find a method to sanitize not just our uniforms and apparel but our equipment and facilities, as well," said Savage.

While one of Manzi's large machines sanitizes gear, a different machine sanitizes entire rooms, like the weight room at the high school.

"Since we have that, we've had no outbreaks of MRSA or staph that we're aware," Savage said.

Savage says the disinfecting treatment doesn't come cheap, but the district is willing to spend to keep kids safe.

"We want to put it on the front end as opposed to the back end when we didn't do something. We're accountable there. We want to be proactive."

"If you are proactive, you're going to help yourself in the long run," Manzi said.

Manzi works on more than just high school sports equipment. He also treats gear and facilities for police departments - chief among them Delaware State Police.

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