Wrestlers File Herpes Lawsuit

Though many may want to, few of the 45 million people in the U.S. infected with herpes actually sue someone after they hear the news. But then again, few people have been diagnosed with herpes the way Andrew Bradley was two years ago at York College of Pennsylvania.

One November morning in 2006, Bradley said he and his teammates gathered in the workout wrestling room for a team-wide blood test for herpes.

"I had a rash by my left eye, and then it was crusty and it was pussy and itching, and with that came flu symptoms," said Bradley, now a graduate of the school in York, Pa.

"I didn't know what it was until I was diagnosed," he said.

Bradley had herpes simplex 1 -- the virus associated with cold sores as well as genital herpes. According to Bradley, he caught it on the wrestling mat with an infected teammate who had taped over his herpes lesions.

"I was really devastated because I know that this was permanent, I knew there was a stigma with the virus," he said.

In a rare move, Bradley and two of his former teammates have filed a civil case against York claiming that the wrestling coach and trainers' actions are responsible for a herpes outbreak.

Thomas Kessler, the head coach of wrestling at York, would not grant ABCNews.com an interview. But Alicia Brumbach, assistant director of communications for the college, released this statement to ABCNews.com on behalf of Kessler, head athletic trainer Nate Cooke and the assistant dean of athletics, Sean Sullivan -- all of whom are being sued: "Yes, the college is aware of the allegations, and we believe them to be without foundation. We have no further comment."

Bradley has been wrestling since the seventh grade, but he claimed he never heard of wrestlers contracting herpes on the mat until his teammate showed signs of it.

But herpes in wrestling is common enough that there's a special name for it: herpes gladiatorum. The NCAA even has rules to prevent the spread of herpes gladiatorum.

In fact, it is because of those rules that Bradley, his former teammates James Harris and Alexander Binder, and their lawyer, David Avedissian of Haddonfield, N.J., believe they have a case.

Herpes Infection Common in Wrestling

"It's common in the sport of wrestling, that's why we have a specific rule about it," said Jim Thornton, athletic training liaison to the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee and director of sports medicine at Clarion University of Pennsylvania in Clarion, Pa.

According to Thornton, players with herpes aren't banned from practice or competition, but there are strict health checks before they may compete or practice.

For a first-ever infection, Thornton said, "in order to participate the wrestler must be free from systemic symptoms such as fever and malaise."

That rule applies whether or not the wrestler has visible lesions.

The wrestler also cannot develop new "blisters" in the 72 hours before wrestling, and the current blisters can't be moist and weeping.

"When the virus has done its thing is when it dries up into a honey-colored crust," said Thornton.

Finally, the wrestler has to take "appropriate antiviral dosages" for five days before practicing.

Thornton emphasized that wrestlers have to meet all of the rules, not just some, before participating. But according to Thornton, some new coaches confuse the rules.

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