Independent report says NFL effectively combating staph infections

The report of two independent infectious disease experts who inspected seven NFL facilities has confirmed that the incidence of MRSA infections in the NFL is league and steadily declining, and that teams are doing an excellent job preventing and treating MRSA staph infections.

The inspections of NFL facilities were arranged by league commissioner Roger Goodell, in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, to ensure that NFL facilities were properly dealing with the national epidemic of staph infections and that players were receiving the best possible care. The inspections were conducted between December 2008 and February 2009 by Dr. Donald Poretz, the immediate past president of the Infectious Disease Society of America and who practices infectious disease medicine in Annandale, Va. Dr. Poretz also is clinical professor of internal medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine and at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dr. Poretz was assisted by Dr. Daniel Sexton, professor of medicine at Duke University and director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network.

Dr. Poretz visited the facilities and interviewed the medical staffs of the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.

  -- Drs. Donald Poretz 

and Daniel Sexton

Following are excerpts of Dr. Poretz's and Dr. Sexton's report:

"The site visits revealed that each of the seven teams that were surveyed has a comprehensive, realistic and appropriate level of concern about the problem of MRSA infections in their players. And more importantly, each of these teams has developed an appropriate, reasonable and effective strategy for recognizing and controlling the spread of MRSA if a random case of infection arises in an individual player."

"Equally important, each team surveyed has attempted to prevent MRSA infections in their players by utilizing appropriate protocols and practices related to the care of minor skin injuries."

"Our conversations with medical and training staff suggest that the incidence of MRSA infections in the NFL is low and ... the overall number of cases appears to be steadily declining." (Note: An NFL physicians survey of clubs determined there were 33 MRSA infections leaguewide from 2006 to 2008 versus 60 MRSA infections from 2003 to 2005, a nearly 50 percent decline.)

"Post-operative MRSA infections cannot be attributed to deficiencies in control and prevention activities in team training facilities."

"Each of the seven teams that were inspected has established educational programs for their players and other personnel, placed appropriate emphasis on hygienic control measures, appropriately and routinely cleaned the team training facilities and used acceptable and standard hospital-grade washing machines."

"In summary, the site visits disclosed an overall high standard of practices related to the detection, treatment and prevention of MRSA infections. Although only seven of 32 teams were visited, the high standard of care and prevention methods documented makes it unlikely that serious deficiencies exist in other teams in the league."

MRSA stand for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of staph that is resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics commonly used to treat it.

The report, which includes recommendations and best practices for preventing and managing MRSA infections, is being distributed to all NFL teams and their medical staffs. Ongoing educational programs about MRSA for all team medical personnel and players will continue to be a priority.

"This report, independently produced by two of the most respected infectious disease specialists in the nation, provides helpful reassurance that a very difficult health problem is being dealt with according to the best practices available and is another example of the close cooperation between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in improving the health and safety of the players," said Dr. Thom Mayer, medical director of the NFL Players Association.

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