New York Giants tight end Daniel Fells may lose his foot to MRSA, despite the best efforts of doctors to save it, and the promising young athlete’s life, from a methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus infection in his ankle.
The NFL Network reports that Fells has been in the hospital for over a week fighting a MRSA infection, and that he was moved to intensive care on Friday. The infection may have gotten into the bone of his foot, and doctor worry it may also travel into his blood.
A source close to Fells told the NFL Network that the injured player has already undergone five surgeries to try and save his foot, and that he will likely face even more. The goal is to save his foot, which he may lose anyway.
The same source told the NFL Network that the problem all started when Fells was given a cortisone shot to help with pain from toe and ankle injuries.
When the pain still hadn’t gone away after a week, Fells was taken to the hospital where they found that he had a high fever and was infected with a drug-resistant staph infection known as MRSA.
There are two kinds of MRSA. Hospital-acquired MRSA is a form of the infection that you get at hospitals, while community-acquired MRSA comes from sources outside hospitals.
White hopital- and community-acquired MRSA are two different infections that require different treatment regimens, they are both potentially dangerous “super bugs” that are resistant to traditional antibiotics.
Although MRSA has been around for half a century, it has exploded in the last few decades due in large part to overuse of antibiotics.
Daniel Fells likely has community-acquired MRSA due to the fact that he was admitted to a hospital with the infection, rather than having acquired it when he was already there.
Athletes like Fells are at particular risk for MRSA because it requires physical contact, or contact with a shared object, as an infection vector. When athletes come into contact during practice or a game, or share equipment, they are at risk for infection if they are in close quarters with someone who has MRSA.
Following the revelation that Daniel Fells may lose his foot from a MRSA infection, the New York Giants jumped into action to educate other players of potential risks.
According to a report by CBS News, Giants coach Tom Coughlin acknowledged that MRSA has been an issue in the NFL for a while.
“It’s a very serious thing, has been that way in this league for quite a few years,” Coughlin told CBS News. “Everyone has been very aware of it.”
However, Coughlin and team doctors aren’t sure how Fells contracted the infection. MRSA is often transmitted via a scratch or cut, which apparently wasn’t the case here.
“With Daniel, it was a different story, there was no surface injury that anybody knows of,” Coughlin told CBS News. “It was an acute joint problem along with a temperature.”
Although it isn’t certain where Fells contracted MRSA, Fox News reports that the team has since disinfected all of its facilities.
The players have also received a refresher course on how to stay safe. Practices like wearing shower slippers and showering before getting into a hot tub are encouraged.
This isn’t the first time MRSA has hit an NFL player, and it likely won’t be the last. According to CBS News, the last outbreak was in 2013. At that time, three Tampa Bay Buccaneers were infected with MRSA during training camp.
Following that breakout, Lawrence Tynes, one of the infected players, sued the NFL in the amount of $20 million.
MRSA also hits athletes that haven’t yet reached the professional level. According to the Yale Daily News, members of both the men’s baseball and women’s crew teams have recently been diagnosed with MRSA infections.
The CDC also has some recommendations for avoiding MRSA and surving an infection if you do contract it.
First, the CDC recommends good hand and body hygiene, especially after you have exercised. It is also important to clean and cover wounds until they have healed, as that is a vector for infection. Sharing items like razors and towels is not recommended, and it is vital to seek treatment if you even think you might be infected.
Daniel Fells wife took him to the emergency room when the pain in his foot didn’t go away, and that may end up saving his life. It’s too early to know whether the young athlete will lose his foot or not, but absent prevention, early treatment is the best way to stay safe from MRSA.
[Photo credit: Ronald Martines / Getty Images Sport]