Mumps Outbreak Takes Center Ice In The NHL: How Did Hockey Players Get Infected?

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the NHL game in North Carolina
The mumps outbreak has infected these NHL players, but does this pose a risk for hockey fans, too? photosthatrock / Shutterstock.com

The National Hockey League (NHL) is seeing more than just their 30 teams take center ice this season, as the mumps has infected the top hockey players from across the league. In one of the most surprising sports medicine stories of the year, a total of 15 NHL players are suspected to have been infected, including two referees. The NHL mumps outbreak is believed to have begun in early November with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin complaining about a swelling in his jaw, but how exactly has the disease spread in the league?

The Start Of The Mumps In The NHL

Beauchemin developed a fever, chills, muscle aches, and lost his appetite on Nov. 7 and four days later was 10 pounds lighter. By this time the virus had spread in the Ducks locker room with three of Beauchemin’s teammates, right winger Corey Perry and defenseman Clayton Stoner, and Emerson Etem all ill-stricken. The disease then proceeded to leap to other teams like the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and the Minnesota Wild, where five players all came down with the mumps.

The mumps is a very infectious disease that takes anywhere from 14 to 25 days to develop symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after being infected. It is quite probable Minnesota Wild’s defensemen Keith Ballard transmitted the disease to his team mates, who then passed it on Beauchemin in their Oct. 17 matchup in Anaheim. New York Rangers left winger Tanner Glass became diagnosed with the mumps on Nov. 29, which may have been transmitted by several St. Louis Blues players who tested positive for the mumps in October, according to the Star Tribune. However, the team argues they never confirmed the mumps, although forward Joakim Lindstrom and centerman Jori Lehtera both showed mumps-like symptoms.

Sidney Crosby Confirmed Case Of The Mumps

The mumps outbreak has continued to have a domino effect in the NHL with a confirmed diagnosis with all-stars like Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, ESPN reported on Monday. His teammate, right winger Beau Bennett, was confirmed with a mumps case on Dec. 14, a day before Crosby. More cases of the mumps are expected to be reported over the upcoming days and month, especially in Anaheim where there have been numerous mumps outbreaks at local schools.

Mumps Vaccine And Effectiveness

NHL players, like Crosby, may have received his mumps vaccination, but the vaccine is not 100 percent effective. According to Vaccines.gov, one dose is about 80 percent effective, and two doses is about 90 percent effective. Anyone who has born during or after 1957 who has not had the bumps or been vaccinated is at risk and should get at least one dose of the measles, mumps, and rubella combination (MMR) vaccine.

 The mumps has easily spread through the NHL because of the close contact these players play in. It is spread through mucus and saliva droplets, such as through coughing, sneezing, and talking in close quarters. It seems player-to-player transmission on the same team helps explain the wide outbreak and why other team players have also been diagnosed.

The highly contagious disease is not expected to infect hockey fans. Unless they get up close and personal with their favorite player. NHL players, like Crosby, are quarantined for a couple of days. The swelling and symptoms usually decrease and disappear over another three to seven days.

The league and the NHL Players’ Association is training staffs and players to become educated on how to stop the spread of the mumps.

Confirmed NHL Players With The Mumps:

1.       Anaheim Ducks Right Winger Corey Perry

2.       Anaheim Ducks Defenseman Francois Beauchemin

3.       Anaheim Ducks Defenseman Clayton Stoner

4.       Anaheim Ducks Left Winger Emerson Etem

5.       Minnesota Wild Defenseman Ryan Suter

6.       Minnesota Wild Defenseman Keith Ballard

7.       Minnesota Wild Defenseman Marco Scandella

8.       Minnesota Wild Defenseman Jonas Brodin

9.       Minnesota Wild Defenseman Christian Folin

10.   New York Rangers Left Winger Tanner Glass

11.   New York Rangers Center Derrick Brassard

12.   New Jersey Devils Center Travis Zajac

13.   New Jersey Devils Defenseman Adam Larsson

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