Sports Teams Should Use MRSA Screening, Other Aggressive Methods to Prevent Staph Infections

"The NFL and other professional sports organizations should be using the most effective tool to protect their players from staph infections -- MRSA screening," says Betsy McCaughey, PhD, chairman of the not-for-profit Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID), whose advisory board includes NFL team physicians.

Today, RID is releasing a new 12-step brochure that explains how screening and other precautions can eradicate MRSA from a sports team's environment. The brochure is being sent to all NFL teams.

Players can be carriers of the MRSA bacteria without realizing it. The bacteria doesn't make them sick until it gets inside their body, usually via a cut or turf burn. The screening test is a noninvasive and inexpensive skin or nasal swab. When a player tests positive, simple steps can be taken to remove the bacteria before it gets inside the player's body and causes an infection.

In addition, players are at risk for a slightly different type of MRSA when they are hospitalized for orthopedic surgery. The 12-step brochure also includes highly effective precautions to protect players from hospital-acquired MRSA. These precautions need to be started several days in advance of surgery. Players should choose surgeons with a low infection rate and get tested for the MRSA bacteria in advance. Players who test positive should bathe with chlorhexidine soap for three to five days to remove the bacteria from the skin before the operation and, in some cases, use mupirocin ointment in the nose, where MRSA tends to live.

In a 2007 study at New EnglandBaptistMedicalCenter, these precautions reduced the risk of post-surgical Staph infections after orthopedic surgery by more than 50 percent. Screening for MRSA before orthopedic surgery is the standard care in the British national health service. Teams that fail to implement these readily available precautions will be vulnerable to lawsuits when players contract MRSA.

For more information, call (212) 369-3329 or consult the RID Web site at

Source: Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths