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MRSA: a silent danger lurking in NFL locker rooms
The germs typically spread by skin-to-skin contact or by touching items used by a carrier or someone who’s infected. Infection can occur when the germs enter a cut or scrape. The result may be a red pus-filled pimple or skin boil, often mistaken as a spider bite. The surrounding skin can be red, swollen and painful.
Left untreated, MRSA infections can become dangerous and potentially life-threatening if they spread into muscle, blood, bones or the lungs.
In 2003 in St. Louis, the MRSA outbreak began with players who had turf burns on their elbows, knees and forearms. They developed large infected skin abscesses that had to be surgically drained. MRSA was found in team whirlpools and taping gel, and from nose swabs of 42 percent of the players and Rams staff.
“They’re often working out together, in close physical proximity, they often have skin abrasions and wounds, they often share towels, sometimes to wipe off their sweat, and some have a “lucky” towel or jersey that they don’t wash, which may become contaminated with MRSA,” said Dr. Victoria Fraser, chair of the department of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, who helped the CDC investigate the Rams‘ outbreak.
In Cleveland, a number of staph infections, including MRSA, dogged the club through much of the last decade and led to two lawsuits against the team, contending the Browns failed to sanitize equipment. The Browns, who settled lawsuits filed by former receiver Joe Jurevicius and offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, said their hygiene practices are state of the art.
An NFL physicians’ survey determined there were 33 MRSA infections across the league from 2006-08. Two occurred in San Francisco, where receiver Josh Morgan reportedly lost about 15 pounds at the start of the 2008 season.
This year in Tampa, guard Carl Nicks, kicker Lawrence Tynes and cornerback Johnthan Banks have been diagnosed with MRSA. After initially treating his infection with antibiotics, Nicks had a recurrence and needed surgery. Tynes is on the non-football injury list; Banks has not been sidelined.
The Bucs brought in a California-based company to make sure the infection is completely removed from the building. Not an easy task, and one that must be completed thoroughly.
And the latest reminder of the hidden dangers of a locker room.
Said Dr. Buddy Creech, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University: “People need to pay it (MRSA) a healthy respect for what it can do.”
Contributing to this report were AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner in Chicago; AP Sports Writers Joseph White in Washington; John Wawrow in Buffalo, N.Y.; Tom Withers in Cleveland; Janie McCauley in San Francisco; Arnie Stapleton in Denver; Andrew Seligman in Chicago; Josh Dubow in Oakland, Calif.; Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J.; Greg Beacham in Los Angeles; Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla.; and R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis.
By Tom Fitton
New photos confirm the attack's coordination and its cover-up
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