MRSA in the Locker Room

mRSA bacteria as seen through a scanning electron micrograph

mRSA bacteria as seen through a scanning electron micrograph

He’s a superstar athlete and commonly considered virtually superhuman, but that didn’t prevent NFL quarterback Peyton Manning from contracting the antibiotic-resistant strain of staph known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) a few years ago.  At the time, the NFL stressed that Manning in suffering from MRSA was far from alone:  “Staph infections are an issue across our country in all walks of life,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.  (–Spotlight on Prevention Nov. 2008). 

Among professional athletes, other victims of MRSA include baseball player Sammy Sosa, White Sox outfielder Álex Riós, Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, Rockets forward Shane Battier, and Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin.  There’s an unconfirmed rumor that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady also suffered from MRSA in 2008. (Bucher 2010)  It’s estimated that 517 of 100,000 football players contracted MRSA between 2003 and 2005, compared to 32 of 100,000 people in the general population. (Stop MRSA NOW n.d.)

According to MedLine Plus Medical Encyclopedia, “Most staph germs are spread by skin-to-skin contact (touching).  A doctor, nurse, other health care provider, or visitors may have staph germs on their body that can spread to a patient.”  That makes it all the more important that caregivers not only have clean skin but clean uniforms and peripheral equipment such as curtains.  The online Physician Desk Reference advises, “The list of drugs that can kill MRSA keeps getting shorter.”  So prevention is the key, and ever more elusive, goal.

MRSA may be even more of a threat in the locker room than in healthcare facilities, since locker rooms are not subject to the same rigorous cleaning standards as hospitals.  (Bucher 2010)  Having skin abrasions and sharing training equipment or personal hygiene items are risk factors.  (Johnson DL 2009).   In its most lethal form, it can kill more people than HIV.  (Bucher 2010)

A 2010 study highlighting the danger of MRSA in the locker room provided detailed advice on prevention:  In addition to advocating frequent hand washing and showering, they advised against sharing towels, athletic gear, water bottles, disposable razors or hair clippers.  They also recommended that all clothing and equipment be laundered or disinfected every day. (Freeman 2007)

Endnotes Bucher, Ric. 2010. “This Is a Staph Infection.” ESPN 2010-2011 NBA Preview. Retrieved from http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/preview2010/news/story?id=5706491

Freeman, David. June 23, 2010. “MRSA Alert: Do Locker Rooms Breed Deadly Infections? Just Ask College Wrestler Kyle Frey.” CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20008624-10391704.html

Johnson, DL. Mar. 2010. “Locker-Room-Acquired MRSA.” Orthopedics. Retrieved from http://www.healio.com/orthopedics/infection/journals/ortho/%7Bfcb4b558-a625-4529-8516-e0e37c410f78%7D/locker-roomacquired-mrsa

Stop MRSA NOW. (n.d.). “Your Locker Room or Gym.” –, Nov. 2008. “Peyton Manning’s Staph Infection.” Spotlight on Prevention.