Though bowling has hit a decline since its Golden Ages of the 1940′s to 1960′s, it’s still a popular sport and Friday-night activity in the United States. And just like any sport, every bowler needs to be properly equipped. Like a Samurai and his sword, a bowling ball is a bowler’s weapon; so picking the right ball may take some time. Most bowling alleys are kind enough to offer a large variety of bowling balls for their patrons to choose from, and you can test them all out to see which one is the best fit for you. While you pick up ball after ball to test, though, you may be picking up a bit more than you bargained for.
Just picking up your fellow bowler’s ball by accident puts you at risk of contracting potentially harmful contaminants and pathogens, and the risk is even higher the more bowling balls you interact with. Over 55% of bowlers test 4 or more balls, 33% test 2 or 3, but only 12% find their destined ball on the first attempt. That’s a surfeit of potential illness waiting for you with every frame. While there are measures in place that require sanitation and sterilization of bowling equipment at bowling alleys, most balls are exposed to bacteria and germs that thrive and spread in between wipe-downs
You then proceed to carry your over used, over touched, crawling with bacteria ball to your party of bowlers. You eat, you drink, and you bowl. Your friend hands you your ball and after coughing into his hand – he’s just getting over a cold. You use the restroom, but you’re in a hurry so you ignore the CDC recommended hand-washing procedure and rush back out to the lane. You have pizza or some other finger food. About the fifth frame, when you’re fifty points behind the rest of the bowlers, you decide the ball just isn’t perfect enough. So you go off in search of a new one, returning the unsatisfactory bowling ball back to its original perch, to wait patiently for another bowler to pull it off the bench. And chances are some other bowler is going to pick up that ball before an employee gets around to sanitizing it.
While there is responsibility for the sanitation of the balls placed on the alley itself, there’s no harm in taking measures yourself. Once you find your ball, request for it to be sanitized while you wash your hands. If you can, stick with your ball. Treat your bowling ball as you would a piece of public exercise equipment. Wipe it down yourself – don’t assume someone else will get to it. You could also bring it directly to a lane employee and let them know you’re done with the ball, making sure it’s sanitized properly.
More than just the bowling ball, though, the bowling shoes are just as much of a health risk. While most dedicated bowlers have their own shoes, the group of kids hanging out at the local bowling alley on a Friday night don’t. So they use the shoes the alley has for rent. These shoes are teeming with bacteria and fungi, and since they’re made of fabric, they’re even harder to sterilize than the bowling balls. Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections are easily contracted by sharing shoes, so make sure you’re properly equipped if you know you’ll be renting bowling shoes. If your feet sweat a lot the risk is even higher, so if you can avoid borrowing shoes altogether. Otherwise, using a powder and washing your feet can help lower the risk of contracting Athlete’s Foot.
While bowling alleys do contain some health concerns, it does not mean you have to avoid them completely. Unless you’re a dedicated bowler armed with your own equipment, you’re going to have to rely on what the bowling alley has available, and with that comes certain risks. As long as you are aware of what you’re exposing yourself to, you can act accordingly and prevent not only yourself from contracting any diseases, but also help stop the spread of the bacteria and fungi that cause them.