Fitness Centers Turn to Antimicrobial Copper to Protect Athletes
07 Jan 2016
By Adam Estelle, Project Engineer for the Copper Development Association
Superbugs can be career enders for athletes, whether they’re on a little league team or a professional team. Simple daily actions such as opening doors and lockers, flushing toilets and turning on faucets expose athletes to surfaces that can harbor bacteria for weeks or even months. To combat these often antibiotic-resistant bacteria, sports facilities have begun installing copper fixtures and gym equipment due to its scientifically proven ability to kill greater than 99.9 percent of bacteria within two hours of contact.
The Los Angeles King’s sports center, the Gilmour Academy Ice Arena and Grinnell Regional Medical Center’s Paul W. Ahrens Fitness Center have installed copper and copper alloys in highly-trafficked areas, including exercise equipment handles, push and pull plates and doorknobs, as a simple and cost-effective way to protect athletes. Unlike other materials, products made from antimicrobial copper materials continuously kill bacteria transferred by touch in between regular cleanings, even after repeated contaminations.
With more than 350,000 students and community users passing through the Gilmour Academy Ice Arena, located just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, every year, copper push and pull plates, cabinet hardware and door handles in its locker rooms and restrooms was an easy solution to reduce bacteria on high touch surfaces.
“Installing copper hardware has given us the ability to add another layer of protection to our facility without purchasing completely new products or increasing our staff maintenance time,” said John Malloy, hockey director for Gilmour Academy. “Our goal is to not only to protect our athletes, but also their parents, friends and anyone else who comes in contact with our facilities.”
In addition to copper hardware (switch plates and door and faucet handles), the Grinnell Regional Medical Center in Grinnell, Iowa installed copper free weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells and pull down bar attachments), in its Paul W. Ahrens Fitness Center, located just a few blocks away from the hospital.
“Our desire is for the fitness center to be the safest it can be for patients, staff and members of the community. They certainly shouldn’t expect to leave with an infection that they didn’t come with,” said Todd Linden, president and CEO of Grinnell Regional Medical Center. “That’s why I feel great about the fact that we have a 24/7 bacteria killing machine in our fitness center. Even when we go home at the end of the day, it’s still doing its job.”
A range of manufacturers worked closely in the development and installation of products throughout the facilities, including free weights by Black Iron Strength, switch and outlet plates by Eaton, cabinet hardware by Colonial Bronze and grab bars and faucet handles by Rocky Mountain Hardware.
Copper products have also made their way to the national level. The 2012 and 2014 champions of the National Hockey League, purchased copper dumbbells and machine attachments for its newly renovated Toyota Sports Center, located in El Segundo, California.
“Our objective was to further minimize the exposure of bacteria in our training spaces and having dumbbells with antimicrobial copper handles made huge sense in upgrading our equipment,” says Matt Price, Los Angeles Kings head strength and conditioning coach. “The net reduction of the spread of bacteria is our goal as we look to minimize athlete’s time lost unnecessarily to illness.”