Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik confirmed Thursday that guard Carl Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes are both being treated for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a form of antibiotic-resistant staph infection. As the Bucs take extra precaution to safeguard their players, some wonder if enough is being done to protect the rest of the National Football League (NFL).
"We had a company come in and nuke the building a week ago after the cultures taken from Nicks and Tynes confirmed it was MRSA," Dominik told ESPN.com. "It was a precautionary move, but we didn't want to fool with it. Our owners said spare no expense. We had the facility treated, and the league office approved of our actions."
Staph infections are caused by Staphylococcus bacteria. MRSA infections are caused by a strain of the Staphylococcus bacteria that has become resistant to common antibiotics used to treat it. According to Mayo Clinic, staph infections can range from minor skin irritations to more life-threatening ailments like infections in a person’s heart valve lining. Signs and symptoms of the disease vary based on its severity.
In the case of Nicks and Tynes, they both exhibited blisters on their feet. Tynes had to have surgery to have the infection scraped from the skin and bone around his toe. Nicks has not had surgery, but is also being treated.
According to NFL.com, staph infections are commonplace in sports locker rooms. In response to the news that two players were infected, the Bucs sanitized the whole facility and they plan to do the same this weekend. The team hasn’t had any new infections.
"Our primary concern is always the health and safety of our players and staff," Dominik added in a statement. "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."
The major concern among players, coaches, and those invested in the NFL is that the two infected players are only symptoms of a larger MRSA outbreak. According to FOX Sports, a person can be a carrier of the disease before he or she manifests any symptoms. In 2003, five players on the St. Louis Rams were infected with MRSA. Between 2006 and 2008, there was a league-wide outbreak of MRSA. Thirty-three players were infected with the bacteria in that two-year span.
Former Cleveland Browns player Kellen Winslow (now with the Jets) said that the team improperly handled his staph infection. His right knee became square-shaped after the infection ate away his cartilage.
“I caught some heat because of that,” Winslow said to FOX Sports on Wednesday when told of the Bucs’ outbreak. “But I still think it was the right thing to do because this had to do with player safety.”
The league hasn’t made any formal statements about how it will handle the possibility of a league-wide outbreak. The New England Patriots, who did joint practices and a preseason game with the Bucs, declined to comment as well.