The talk of the NFL this past week has been on the unseen, long-term effects of concussions, but it's another hidden danger that's ravaging players and frightening the league — bacterial MRSA infections.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks was sidelined with a MRSA (which stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection this morning, making him the third Bucs player this year to go down with the injury. In addition, guard Carl Nicks, who contacted MRSA earlier this year, had a reoccurrence of MRSA on Thursday.
MRSA is a medicine-resistant staph infection that spreads due to unsanitary conditions. That makes it ripe for causing problems in locker room facilities, with their sweaty towels and shared water bottles aplenty.
The outbreak has gotten bad enough that the team invited in the co-director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Center for advice and to explain the MRSA problem to the team. "So much of the fear is the unknown," head coach Greg Schiano explained in a press conference today. The NFL also sent out a private memo to all of its teams to be wary of the infection.
The outbreak also makes the Bucs look downright unforgivable in their dealing with former kicker Lawrence Tynes. Tynes, then with Tampa Bay, was diagnosed with MRSA this offseason about a week after a surgical procedure on an ingrown toenail, derailing his season. But the team placed Tynes on the non-football-injury list, "a move that implies Tynes has no proof that the MRSA infection originated from their facility," Fox News explains. Now that three separate Buccaneer players have had MRSA mishaps, that denial of culpability looks like a farce.
And this isn't a new problem for the NFL. Back in 2008, the Cleveland Browns suffered a rash of MRSA infections, effectively ending the careers of three players and sidelining three more. The infection even struck star quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Along with the long-term health problems associated with concussions and head trauma, NFL players could come to be just as frightened of the unseen as they are of more visible injuries.