The Tampa Bay Buccaneers grossed out the sporting world recently with the announcement that several of their players are fighting MRSA infections. Football doesn’t get to have all the fun where nasty bugs are concerned, so this week we’ll take you on a tour of some disgusting locker room infections. You’re welcome.
What better place to start than with the biggest jerk of all the infections. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a nasty version of a very common bacterium. Regular staph is nothing special. It’s probably on your skin and in your nose right now (don’t freak out, it’s on just about everyone else too). It usually does absolutely nothing, but it can cause skin infections. In rare cases it can cause necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease) or a really terrible pneumonia. MRSA is an ugly little variant that has developed resistance to certain antibiotics. So as horrified as you are by the thought of a nasty pus-filled abscess, you should be even more horrified by the thought of an antibiotic-resistant pus-filled abscess.
Holy crap, how do I avoid that?
Wash everything. A lot. Touch nothing. Never leave the house. Bleach, bleach, bleach. Alternately, just keep in mind that MRSA is spread via skin-to-skin or skin-to-dirty thing contact, and soap is your friend. Washing equipment frequently and showering immediately after any sort of contact sport goes a long way. Having said that, it’s a miracle most beer league players aren’t festering cesspools of MRSA-soaked flesh. If you think nobody notices you hustle to your car without showering you are SO wrong. We’re on to you. As far as pro athletes go, the CDC recommends that they securely cover any open wounds, and stay out of whirlpools, swimming pools, and “common-use water facilities” if they have any open wounds or active infections (gag).
Professional teams (and a lot of amateur teams) are taking extra steps to keep the scourge of MRSA away from their players. Locker rooms are starting to adopt methods that you’d expect to find in hospitals. The Tampa Bay Lightning have gone on record with the rigorous methods they’ve been using to avoid sharing the MRSA love with the Bucs. They use an ozone-based equipment sanitizing system that looks like a boring metal locker, but is actually a silver box of microbial death. The box fills with ozone (basically unstable oxygen), which destroys MRSA and other nasties in all the various equipment nooks & crannies.
The company that makes this particular system is the NHL’s preferred supplier of equipment sanitizing machinery, and claims to be in use by 27 teams. They also list the Thrashers as one of those teams, leading me to wonder if there’s a clever peewee team somewhere in Atlanta happily sanitizing everything they own free of charge.
Vancouver’s Chris Higgins had a problem with staph during the 2011-12 season, and spent several months and multiple rounds of antibiotics trying to get rid of it. It started as a spot on his foot, then ended up in his hand. After several failed rounds of normal antibiotics, he ended up with IV antibiotics and an infectious diseases specialist. This is the same problem he had the year before with the Panthers, and isn’t so much an indicator that he’s a filthy animal as it is that staph is a total dick.
Want to see some pictures of MRSA infections? Well, not everyone does so here’s a link. Good luck. Bring a barf bag.
What? Herpes? FROM SPORTS? Yes. Herpes from sports. Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 & 2) is the culprit at work in cold sores (HSV-1) and genital herpes (HSV-2). It’s related to a few other viral jerkbutts, including the ones that bring you the joys of chicken pox, shingles, and mono. Herpes is spread through contact with active lesions, and herpes gladiatorum is the version you get from rubbing your face on a wrestling mat that someone else has rubbed their cold sore on. But it’s not just wresting mats – any skin-to-skin contact has potential for giving the gift of a lifetime of crusty lesions. Sorry, no player examples of this one, but keep in mind that depending on age group anywhere from 60-90% of adults have HSV-1. Numbers may be slightly higher on dry islands.
I’m in that other 10-40%. HELP!
Don’t touch anyone’s herpes lesions, and don’t rub your face on wrestling mats. Or dirty towels. Again, not ever leaving the house is probably your best bet. There’s also a variety of commercial products that are more affordable than the silver cabinet of death, like gear spray or good old-fashioned bleach. Remember, herpes – like diamonds – are forever. For your viewing displeasure, here’s a variety of herpes pictures. I recommend you don’t click that link. Seriously, it’s awful. Trust me.
There’s a fungus among us!
Ringworm is gross. It’s even more gross when it’s in your crotch. Yes, that’s correct. Jock itch is the same thing as ringworm or athlete’s foot, except it’s in your crotch. Trichophyton rubrum is the fungus responsible for the peeling, cracking, red, painful, itchy blistering skin that can be between your toes or near your junk (and in extreme cases, ON your junk). Fungi just love warm, moist, dark environments, like the inside of a cup or a skate. Worse yet, your jock itch or athlete’s foot can be so bad that you end up with an opportunistic yeast infection, or – get this – MRSA. CROTCH MRSA. If all of that’s not enough to convince you to always wear clean socks, shower a lot, and throw out the tighty-whities, then you’re beyond help.
OH GOD I ALREADY HAVE THIS WHAT DO I DO?
Clean your gear, genius. Shower. Dry yourself throughly with a clean towel. Don’t wear the underoos unless they’re boxer style. And use antifungal cream until it clears up. If it doesn’t clear up, you could end up on oral antifungal medications, but they can be rough on the liver. Wouldn’t it be easier to just dry your crotch and use clean towels?
You’d think hockey players would be particularly susceptible to athlete’s foot given all those nasty showers, yucky locker room carpets, tight skates, and sweating. About 30% of people will have some sort of foot fungus at any given time, but interestingly enough, a field study done with the Munich Barons (now the Hamburg Freezers) showed that not one single player among the 28 on the roster had it. The researchers also made note of the fact that none of the players walked around barefoot. Apparently foot fungus warnings haven’t fallen on deaf ears in the DEL.
More pictures? Fine. Here you go. Fungus.
Around the league…
Hey, remember when Sheldon Souray broke his hand in a fight? No, that other time. Well he had to have surgery and then got a wound infection. The good news is that’s not the problem this time. The bad news is he screwed up a ligament in his wrist over the summer, had surgery, and will probably miss half the season.
Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen has a delicate groin. He’s missed plenty of games because of it in the past, so a little twinge last week was enough to preemptively shut him down. He’s working out, and could be back this weekend. Whether his groin joins him remains to be seen.
You can count Jack Hillen out for the first half of Washington’s season. He broke his right tibial plateau, which is code for the important part at the top of your lower leg that makes up the lower half of your knee joint. He’s had repair surgery, and is done until at least early February.
Max Lapierre accidentally pushed Dan Boyle‘s face into the boards last night, but it couldn’t possibly have been or purpose and he doesn’t have a reputation, so… What? Oh. Never mind.