NY Giants player could lose foot to MRSA, report says

This is a 2014 photo of Daniel Fells of the New York Giants.

AP Photo

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The New York Giants have taken a crash course on MRSA amid reports that one of the team's promising tight ends could potentially lose his foot to the brutal infection.

Team doctors, trainer Ronnie Barnes, the head of the team's facilities and the players union spoke to the team on Wednesday after tight end Daniel Fells was hospitalized with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that kills thousands a year.

"It's a very serious thing, has been that way in this league for quite a few years," coach Tom Coughlin said. "Everyone has been very aware of it."

Coughlin said Fells hopes to get out of the hospital on Thursday, although his season is now over after being placed on injured reserve.

NFL.com reports Fells has had five surgeries, and are expecting to perform more, as doctors try to stave off further infection. The report claims doctors are still fighting to save his foot, which could face amputation "given the nature of the infection."

Doctors have not discovered how Fells contracted MRSA, Coughlin said.

"With Daniel, it was a different story, there was no surface injury that anybody knows of," the coach said. "It was an acute joint (ankle) problem along with a temperature."

Since the diagnosis, the team's facility has been disinfected and the players were lectured and given time to ask questions.

Players have been advised to wash their hands frequently, take showers before getting into hot tubs and wear shower slippers among other precautions.

"This is something that is around the game, and not just our game, it's other sports as well," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "It's unfortunate, but there is a possibility of it."

CBSSports.com's Jared Dubin reports this is not the first MRSA outbreak in the NFL. The most recent outbreak came back in 2013, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had three players infected during camp: kicker Lawrence Tynes, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Jonathan Banks. Tynes, a former Giant as well, sued the Bucs and the NFL for $20 million back in April.

MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is sometimes referred to as a "superbug" because it is resistant to several antibiotics. About one in three people carry staph infections in their nose, but about two in 100 people carry MRSA strains. It is a skin infection that's spread through direct contact with an infected wound, such as through sharing personal items like towels or razors that have touched infected skin.

Infection risk can be increased through activities that involve crowding, skin-to-skin contact and shared equipment. As such, athletes, students, military personnel in barracks and people at hospitals and health care facilities are at higher risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara is familiar with MRSA. He had it in his first year at Nebraska.

"It was the worst,' he said. "I don't remember that you can die from it and so I think guys are taking it pretty seriously."

Amukamara believes he contracted MRSA when he picked a pimple on his wrist and then had contact with a sweaty strap that a teammate used while weightlifting. The site got itchy and then he got sick.

The wrist was drilled and cleaned out, he said. He was in bed for three or four days with a big wrap on his hand.

"It's like a very extreme case of the flu," Amukamara said of the MRSA effects. "My body felt like paralyzed. I didn't want to get up and shower. I always felt cold."

He felt better in a week.

Zak DeOssie, the Giants player representative, said the team has its entire facility disinfected several times during the season and this time, they simply moved up the service a couple of weeks.

"It's scary, but I know we are doing everything we possibly can," DeOssie said. "What else can you do? You have to be extra diligent washing your hands, reporting any sort of lesion or anything that feels not right. It's just an unfortunate part of the job. We have to be extra wary as we move forward."

Linebacker Mark Herzlich said his biggest concern was for Fells.

"We talked in the hall," Herzlich said. "He is doing better, but he is very sick. Hopefully it was a fluke thing and nothing has to be done besides cleaning up and containing it."

The doctors and trainers had some surprising facts about MRSA, the biggest one being that it is on 5 to 10 percent of people, Herzlich said.

"It doesn't affect a lot of people because their skin protects them," he said. "Unfortunately when there are abrasions or needles, it can get inside."

Offensive lineman John Jerry said it's important that players report either any swelling or fever and get it looked at immediately.

Despite all the precautions, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said MRSA sometimes cannot be avoided.

"Everybody is sweaty, dirty, and things can get passed around through scabs and scars or whatever," he said.

Beckham did not sound concerned about the infection.

"They said something about Ebola a long time ago, and I try not to worry about that," the 22-year-old said. "There's no need to worry about it, if something is going to happen, it's going to happen. I believe in destiny and faith."