In a friendly game of one on one, I pass you the basketball and a dangerous germ too. Researchers at the University of California-Irvine discovered that Staphylococcus aureus (staph infections) can and does survive on basketballs, volleyballs and other sports equipment for up to 72 hours. Therefore, athletes, coaches, trainers and parents must realize the necessity for properly cleaning sports equipment.

Researchers focused on the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which causes staph infections in athletes. One kind of staph bug is methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), which is resistant to many antibiotics.

Study supervisor Joshua Cotter said "The S. aureus we encountered, supports our understanding that gym environments are reservoirs for germs, institutions, coaches and athletes should take note that sports balls/equipment can be a vehicle for transmitting potentially life-threatening germs."
Source: University of California-Irvine and ZeeNews.com

Although the study looked only at S. aureus, it's possible other dangerous bacteria and/or viruses could be spread among athletes the same way, Cotter said.