Bucs MRSA outbreak infects, sidelines Nicks, Tynes
Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and place-kicker Lawrence Tynes have been sidelined indefinitely by MRSA, a serious staph infection that may have spread throughout their training facility, general manager Mark Dominik confirmed Thursday. Tynes had surgery on an infected toe this week.
The Bucs said they discovered the outbreak of MRSA, a powerful bacteria that is resistant to some pencillin antibiotics, while the team was in New England last week and had the building sanitized. They informed players of the discovery on Monday.
"Our primary concern is always the health and safety of our players and staff,'' general manager Mark Dominik said in a release by the team. "Our players were informed of the situation and we sought the advice of experts, including the NFL’s medical advisor, who provided counsel and approved of our comprehensive measures including the treatment of our practice facility."
Nicks did not play in last Friday's game against the Patriots. At the time, coach Greg Schiano said it was precautionary but later disclosed he had a blister that had become infected on his left foot, where he had season-ending surgery on his big toe last November.
Tynes orginally was diagnosed with an ingrown toenail. But he sought a second opinion and doctors at the New York Hospital for Special Surgery confirmed the diagnosis as MRSA. Tynes underwent surgery on Tuesday, the same day the team signed former Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell.
"We are aware of the health and safety issue in Tampa Bay and our Medical Director has been briefed,'' NFLPA executive director for external affairs George Atallah tweeted. "We are also looking into ensuring that the team met its obligation to inform the players of the situation in Tampa Bay."
The Bucs have been unable to determine exactly where the MRSA came from, whether it orginated from the team's facility or somewhere else. Tynes, a free agent from the Giants who was signed shortly after Connor Barth tore his right Achilles tendon in a charity basketball game, has been unable to participate in training camp.
The team now has three kickers on their roster, including rookie Derek Dimke. Schiano has said Nicks is out indefinitely and that they will have a better handle on his condition once the medication takes effect in five to seven days. Both players are said to be responding well to medication.
Upon learning about the MRSA diagnosis, Dominik met with trainer Todd Toriscelli, contacted the NFL Player's Association and consulted with the Glazer family which owns the team. It was decided as a precaution to have the facility sanitized over the weekend.
MRSA is an acronym for “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” a bacteria that can cause terrible skin infections, pneumonia, blood poisoning, even death. It is resistant to many common antibiotics such as penicillin, making it much more difficult to treat than an ordinary staph infection, according to Dr. Eric Coris, a medical professor at the University of South Florida who has researched MRSA in athletes.
The MRSA is spread through contact with an infected person. With football players, 'You're talking about a contact sport,'' Coris said. A barely noticeable skin opening -- as small as a nick from shaving -- is large enough for MRSA to invade. Athletes also may share equipment or towels that come in direct contact with the skin.
MRSA staph infections are nothing new to the NFL.
In 2003, five St. Louis Rams players were affected by MRSA, which was recovered from whirlpools and athletic tape. It also was detected on 35 nasal swabs from players and staff members.
An NFL physicians survey of the 32 clubs determined there were 33 MRSA staph infections leaguewide from 2006-08. The Browns had at least six players stricken with some sort of staph infections during those years.
In 2009, former Bucs receiver Joe Jurevicius sued the Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland Clinic, saying the team misrepresented the cleanliness of its training facility and blaming doctors with negligence over a staph infection in his right knee that kept him from playing. The lawsuit alleges that physicians failed to warn Jurevicius that the team's therapy equipment was not always sanitized.
The list included players such as Kellen Winslow, Jr., and center LeCharles Bentley, who got it after surgery for a torn patellar tendon. Bentley was hospitalized for up to five weeks and nearly had his leg amputated. The infection was so bad at one point it reportedly was life-threatening.