In addition to the expected crop of standard hockey injuries this week – Zdeno Chara day to day with a left knee injury, David Booth out four to six weeks with a sprained MCL – there were a few unusual ones worth a closer look. Vancouver’s Chris Higgins had a reoccurrence of a staph infection in his right foot, Marty St. Louis broke his face (and his consecutive games streak), and Patrick Wiercioch of Ottawa’s AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators is out indefinitely after taking a puck in the throat.
Chris Higgins’ Nasty Foot
Vancouver forward Chris Higgins had a sore foot after a game last week against the Flames. When he woke up the next morning it was swollen, red, and on fire (not literally). Higgins had this same problem last year when he was with the Panthers, and missed six games because of it. The culprit – Staphylococcus aureus, AKA one of the biggest jerks of the bacterial world.
S. aureus is part of a lot of people’s normal skin flora, meaning that you may carry it around on your skin all the time. Before you freak out and start scrubbing, keep in mind that it normally won’t affect you. Problems happen when your friendly neighbourhood staph goes from simply living on you to a full-on infection state. This can be from an open wound, on vulnerable skin (areas that are shaved, for example) or even on what appears to be intact skin. The infection can range from something simple like impetigo to something very deadly if the bloodstream is invaded. Part of staph’s jerkiness is the fact that some strains have become resistant to the class of antibiotics traditionally used for treatment – this is the ultrajerk bacteria known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA skin infections are more common in certain groups of people than the general public, and athletes are one of those lucky groups. In the interest of not making anyone throw up I haven’t included a picture of a staph skin infection, but here’s a link if you’re so inclined.
The best strategy against MRSA is not to let it infect you. Don’t share towels (that’s seriously gross anyway so I have no idea why you would), keep your surroundings clean, wear flip flops in the shower (not your own shower, I’m talking locker room stuff here), and if you’ve already got a skin infection DON’T TOUCH IT*. Unfortunately sometimes you can do everything right, be a complete towel-hoarding clean freak and still end up infected. That’s how big a jerk MRSA can be.
(*One of the main rules of medicine that I’d ask you to please remember is DON’T TOUCH THAT. It applies in so many situations.)
Once you’ve got that nasty painful skin infection, get thee to a doctor. Higgins did that the day after his foot started bothering him. In fact, he went to an infectious diseases specialist which is why I’d suspect this is most likely MRSA and not just normal wimpy staph. Your wound will probably be cultured (where the infected bits are swabbed and sent to a lab to figure out what exactly is in there and what antibiotics will knock it out), and you’ll be started on something like clindamycin, bactrim or one of the tetracyclines – some of the more common choices for MRSA skin infections. If your skin infection has an obvious abscess, you’ve likely bought yourself an I & D (incision and drainage), which is exactly what you think it is.
Higgins did everything right this time, and only missed a couple of games. Solid work, Higgy. Now keep your flip flops on and get your own towel.
Marty St. Louis’ Broken Face
Last year Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman asked his team to consider wearing visors. About half the team currently does. The other half decided they’d continue playing without them. Marty St. Louis, one of the non-visor-wearers and third in the NHL in consecutive games played, took a puck in or around the left eye in practice December 8th. He was taken to NYU by ambulance and released the next day. He’s supposed to be re-examined when some of the swelling around his eye goes down, but the preliminary news is facial and nasal/sinus fractures but no actual eye damage.
What does this mean for Marty? He’s out indefinitely. Without knowing the extent of the injuries it’s hard to say what his treatment will entail, but facial fractures frequently require facial surgery.
One of the scarier (and most common) injuries you can get when you’re hit in the eye is an orbital blowout – meaning the floor of your eye socket breaks due to an increase in pressure on the eye area from being struck by something like a puck, fist, floor, etc. One of the muscles that moves your eye (the inferior rectus) or the globe (eyeball) itself can get trapped in the fracture, and all manner of awful things can result. An orbital blowout often comes along with zygomatic fractures (that’s your cheekbone, and trust me breaking it hurts) and maxillary (upper jaw) fractures. After waiting a few days for swelling to go down and to see if any visual disturbances (ie double vision) go away on their own, surgery may be necessary.
One has to wonder if Marty St. Louis will reconsider the visor issue once he’s back on the ice. An orbital fracture is the injury that got Yzerman into one (and earned him a surgical repair). It’s also the reason he asked his team to consider wearing them at the end of last season. We should know more about Marty’s course of treatment over the next week or two.
Patrick Wiercioch Takes a Puck in the Throat
Friday, December 9th the Binghamton Senators of the AHL lost 5-1 to the Norfolk Admirals, and lost Patrick Wiercioch to an ugly injury (video here from WBNG Binghamton). He took a puck in the throat during the first period, and incredibly managed to make it off the ice with assistance from Mark Parrish and trainer Glen Kinney. He spent the night in Binghamton’s Lourdes hospital and was transferred to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse in stable condition on Saturday to be evaluated by a “throat specialist” (I suspect this is code for an otolaryngologist – an ENT or Ear Nose and Throat doc). After just a few days of hospitalization, the B-Sens announced yesterday that Wiercioch had been released from Upstate and was back home in Binghamton.
The good news is this wasn’t a Trent McCleary-type situation with team doctors going all M*A*S*H in the training room doing emergency airway surgery. The bad news is there’s a lot of important stuff in the neck, and that stuff doesn’t like being whacked with a puck. Wiercioch could have any number of injuries from soft tissue swelling to a fractured larynx (that’s all the cartilage that makes up the important breathing and talking pieces of your neck). His injury seems to have been on the less terrifying end of the spectrum, and it’s great news that he’s home. He’s out indefinitely for now.
Some Other Stuff Happened
Taylor Hall should be back against Phoenix tomorrow after missing seven games with some mysterious unspecified shoulder ailment. No word on whether he’s had to refrain from intense hangman games with Jordan Eberle. I’m sure Ryan Whitney will keep us all updated.
Sidney Crosby is back out with concussion-like symptoms. He passed ImPACT testing, which is designed to evaluate for concussion, but “…just didn’t feel right.” Sid, please stay out as long as it takes to feel right. Please.
Rick DiPietro is out with… You know what? Never mind.