Despite five surgeries to treat a serious staph infection, doctors may need to amputate the foot of New York Giants tight end Daniel Fells, NFL.com reported. The infection was caused by MRSA, a life-threatening antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection.
"It's a very serious thing [and] has been that way in this league for quite a few years," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said at a press event this week. "Everyone has been very aware of it."
While concussions and traumatic brain injuries are perhaps the most talked-about afflictions when it comes to the NFL, MRSA continues to plague the league. Because the bacteria are spread through direct contact with open wounds -- or by sharing personal items like towels -- football players are often at risk.
In the past decade, dozens of NFL players have contracted the potentially deadly infection. The most recent MRSA study, commissioned by NFL physicians in 2013, found 33 players contracted the staph infection from 2006 to 2008. Eleven teams had players affected, including the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers.
"This is something that is around the game, and not just our game; it's other sports as well," Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said at a press conference this week. "It's unfortunate, but there is a possibility of it."
Perhaps the worst professional football MRSA outbreak came in 2013, when three Tampa Bay Buccaneers players contracted the infection. One of the players, kicker Lawrence Tynes, this year sued the team for $20 million, alleging the MRSA infection ended his career.
Tynes claimed the team was at fault because it did not maintain the cleanliness of its facility. That case is pending.
In the wake of Fells' infection, the Giants have begun working with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network to sterilize the team’s locker rooms and other facilities. “We know how serious it is, and we are taking every precaution and doing everything we possibly can,” coach Tom Coughlin said this week. The disease specialists, he said, “are very, very thorough in what they’ve done in terms of cleaning.”