Another annual dilemma that some teams seem to incur is a result of a lack of practice — one that healthcare facilities practice on a daily basis: infection control. Former New York Giant and two-time Super Bowl Champion, kicker Lawrence Tynes, has been named as one of the players “out indefinitely” as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ facility was, earlier this week, in the process of being temporarily quarantined and decontaminated due to an outbreak of a microorganism now commonly known as “staph.”
Bucs guard Carl Nicks had an infected blister on his foot and Tynes had to have surgery this week on an infected toe — one where they had to debride (scrape) the skin and bone. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik confirmed this a few days ago to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
Over the past decade or so, something more specifically known as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is making its way around the NFL like some traded or free agency players. MRSA is a stubborn bacteria that can (and usually is) impervious to most antibiotics and needs to be cultured/tested to determine what type of antibiotics will eradicate it. While MRSA can be common and carried by folks unbeknownst to them, if left untreated, it can be quite painful and more times than thought, ultimately fatal. Many walk around, unaffected, but to those immuno-compromised, those who contract it in open wounds, in the blood or in the respiratory tract or heart, it can take a sharp left turn. Severe spread infection (sepsis) sets in and affects more than just the affected area. Long hospital stays and several courses of antibiotics (as well as other medicines/fluids) are the only hopeful cures. Another rare secondary condition some may remember as the “flesh-eating” bacteria (necrotizing fasciitis) can occur.
What isn’t rare is the number of players in the game that have been affected. Former New York Giant wide receiver, Joe Jurevicius (as a Cleveland Brown), was among the first bunch. More conspicuous were tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. and wideout Braylon Edwards among the Browns affected. Three more Browns players (offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, safety Brian Russell and linebacker Ben Taylor) were also diagnosed with MRSA — all between the years of 2003-2008. Jurevicius and Bentley sued the Cleveland football organization, claiming that the team did not provide a sterile environment, and team doctors failed to warn that proper infection control precautions were not taken.
The St. Louis Rams apparently had five players that were affected (in 2003) by the resistant bug; MRSA was recovered from whirlpools and athletic tape as well as on 35 nasal swabs from players and staff members (how “samples” are taken). Imagine having a small scrape to your shin from what’s deemed as normal football contact and then relaxing in one of those whirlpools cooking with bacteria… Lovely.
Not until after the league-wide outbreak of MRSA infections between 2006 and 2008 did NFL teams grasp the severity of the situation and finally handle it. Perhaps an amazing statistic from a survey of 32 NFL-club medical physicians: 33 players were stricken in that 2-year time frame.
As much as players (and their respective fans) want to get back out on the field post-op/procedure, there is a bit more to it. That “unknown” factor of what is there, but not seen. The gross topic of what’s been found on cultured subway handrails, public doorknobs and food shopping cart handles won’t be explored, but the fact remains that besides washing hands as well as equipment is more important than one could ever imagine.
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