There's the Rub: Football Abrasions Can Lead to Nasty Infections

Article excerpt

The scrapes and cuts endured by football players on U.S. professional teams can develop into drag-resistant bacterial infections that may spread to teammates in the locker room or to opponents on the field, a new study shows. Athletes who play most of their games on artificial turf might be more prone to infection than those who play mainly on grass fields because they experience more skin abrasions similar to rug bums. Researchers now report that serious infections may arise from such abrasions.

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta investigated skin infections among St. Louis Rams players, who host games on artificial turf. Between August and November of 2003, Rams players averaged 2 to 3 so-called turf burns each week.

Three-fifths of the Rams players reported getting a prescription antibiotic during the 2003 season. On average, each player received 2.6 such prescriptions that year, roughly 10 times the average for men their age in the general population, the researchers report in the Feb. 3 New England Journal of Medicine.

In response to abrasions, 5 of the 58 players on the team developed abscessed Staphylococcus aureus infections that were resistant to drugs in the penicillin family and to antibiotics called macrolides.

The abscesses cleared up after treatment with other antibiotics, such as vancomycin and tetracycline, says Sophia V. Kazakova, a CDC physician. Two of the five players received intravenous antibiotics.

The infections in these five players arose from a recently identified strain of S. aureus that carries unusual genes. These cause the antibiotic resistance and enable the microbe to make Panton-Valentine leukocidin, a toxin associated with severe abscesses. …