Ingrown toenails affect an estimated 5% of the general population. It’s often caused by nail trauma and tight shoes, but it can also be hereditary. Not only is this condition terribly painful, but it can also open the body up to infection. Not surprisingly, many athletes end up with ingrown toenails due to the stress put on the feet during competitive game play. This year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Lawrence Tynes not only landed a disabling ingrown toenail, but a potentially deadly bacteria too! As you’ll see in the following story, toenail infections are not something you want to take lightly.
What Is MRSA?
Lawrence Tynes showed all the classic symptoms of a MRSA infection. After having a debridement procedure done to correct his ingrown toenail, he noticed that his toe had turned red, swollen, tender, and pus-filled within a week. Usually a MRSA infection looks like a boil or a serious spider bite. Some people develop pneumonia-like symptoms such as shortness of breath, chills, cough, and fever. MRSA can infect the bloodstream or result in flesh-eating bacterial infections, which is why it must be taken very seriously and treated immediately.
MRSA stands for Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. It’s an insidious strain of staph bacteria we discovered in the 1950s, as heavy penicillin use led to the evolution of “super strains” of bacteria that couldn’t be treated with conventional drugs. Doctors then began using methicillin on bacterial strains that were resistant to penicillin, but it wasn’t long before a bug evolved to resist methicillin, amoxicillin, dicloxacillin, oxacillin, and many other drugs. For now, the antibiotic vancomycin appears effective against MRSA, but this is likely to change.
Health care professionals used to think that MRSA only popped up in health care settings or among patients with weakened immune systems. However, internal studies done on NFL locker rooms and playing surfaces have illuminated the fact that deadly bacteria can be lurking anywhere in our environment.
What The NFL Found Out About Deadly Bacteria
We hate to tell you this, but staph bacteria is probably on your skin right now. About one-third of the world’s population has S. aureus bacteria on their bodies, with 1% of these people walking around with MRSA bacteria on their skin, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The question remains to be answered: Did Tynes pick up the bacteria from the Buccaneers’ locker room or training camp? Is it a mere coincidence that the Buccs’ offensive guard Carl Nicks and an unnamed third player are also dealing with MRSA toenail infections? While we wait for the burden of proof, we can look back at a similar incident that struck the St. Louis Rams back in 2003.
When 9% of the players came down with non-healing infections, the CDC was called in to investigate. They found MRSA on taping gel, in whirlpool tubs, on towels, and in turf burns. Since 2006, the NFL has seen an average of 11 MRSA outbreaks per season. It’s hit the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, and 27 other teams, although it’s rarely reported. Many of these teams contracted MRSA while visiting other stadiums. What researchers learned was that deadly bacteria can very easily spread among populations.
What You Can Do To Prevent MRSA Toenail Infections
Poor Lawrence Tynes went on six different antibiotics and underwent three surgeries to clear up his infection. In addition to taking the steps listed in the above infographic, you can also put a SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer in your shoes each day to eliminate dangerous microbes that could be lurking there. A very low level of UV light can kill MRSA effectively.