A pair of San Francisco 49ers recently had bouts with a dangerous staph infection that could be a cause for great concern for the NFL should more cases emerge. Receiver Josh Morgan lost 15 pounds battling a MRSA infection, which is one of the most serious staph strains because it is resistant to standard antibiotics.
Safety Keith Lewis also had the infection, according to the SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT’s Matt Maiocco. MRSA infections amongst football players are becoming more common as teams at all levels have moved increasingly from grass to synthetic fields.
Synthetic fields (”field turf”) give players more scrapes and burns than grass, which creates the most favorable conditions for the bacteria to spread.The Niners never actually made Morgan’s diagnosis public, instead referring to it as an “undisclosed illness.” But of all people, it was Brian Billick’s reference to Morgan’s infection and weight loss that brought the story out.
If left untreated, MRSA infections can be deadly. Studies in Texas showed that the occurrence of infections in high school football players in that state are more than 16 times the national average. BLOOMBERG’s Victor Epstein has more details:
Football players often become infected at the site of a turf burn and are misdiagnosed, said David Smith, co-author of a study showing that MRSA-related hospitalizations in the U.S. more than doubled from 1999 to 2005. “The turf burns themselves are just the kind of minor skin injury that MRSA can exploit,” said Elliot Pellman, medical liaison for the National Football League, which also has had infections among its players.
The NFL has seen these kinds of infections before. The Rams, Browns, and Redskins have all been hit with multiple cases in the last few seasons.