In light of today's report of another breakout of MRSA among the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFLPA expressed concerns about the Eagles and Buccaneers playing this Sunday's game in Tampa.
The NFL has since announced that the game will go on, as nothing has been observed to compromise the ability for the two teams to play. This week, two Buccaneers players have been diagnosed with MRSA infections.
MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) infection is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that over time, becomes resistant to the antibiotics used to treat most staph infections. According to the Mayo Clinic, the majority of MRSA infections are seen in hospitals or other health-care centers and are typically associated with invasive procedures.
But a lesser-known phenomenon is what's known as CA-MRSA (Community-associated MRSA) often spread through skin-to-skin contact.
CA-MRSA is what they're dealing with in Tampa Bay right now. It's the second such incident this season already, as Buccaneers kicker Lawrence Tynes was sidelined (and remains so) with a MRSA infection. This week, two more active Buccaneers players have been diagnosed, leading to concern from the league offices and the Player's Association.
Since Staphylococcus Aureus occurs fairly commonly, many people are totally unaware that they have it. The problems start when the bacteria is able to enter the body through a cut or wound—an obvious concern in a locker room or on a football field. While many people with strong immune systems—including, presumably, professional athletes—can fight off an infection with only mild symptoms, those with weakened immune systems can be susceptible to the antibiotic-resistant strain.
Considering the number of surfaces—towels, equipment, etc.—shared throughout an NFL game, not to mention in the locker rooms before and after the game, it's easy to understand the concern from the teams. This isn't necessarily an isolated incident either—in 2003, several St. Louis Rams players came down with MRSA infections—an outbreak later attributed to, among other things, close contact between players. The Cleveland Browns also had a well-publicized outbreak that affected star players Kellen Winslow Jr. and LeCharles Bentley.
During the Rams outbreak, some opposing players ended up developing infection that were later attributed to sharing the same playing surface.
While the latest MRSA outbreak appears unlikely to impact this weekend's game, NFL and infection control officials remain in Tampa and continue to monitor the situation.