The infection that landed a Hauppauge wrestler in intensive care fighting for his life 12 days ago has the Long Island sports community buzzing over the latest health scare.
It’s unclear how contracted MRSA, a highly resistant bacterial infection that can be easily spread. It’s common in high-contact sports such as football and wrestling. While wrestling coaches have seen the benefits of religiously scrubbing down mats for decades to prevent the spread of everything from staph to impetigo, herpes and ringworm, the rise of MRSA has forced coaches and trainers to be ever more vigilant.
Take , which endured its own MRSA scare on Jan. 25. When a rival Catholic school informed Friars athletic director that one of its junior varsity wrestlers had been diagnosed with MRSA, St. Anthony’s officials sprung into action.
“Because of the seriousness of this it’s justified,” Buckley said. “It’s scary stuff.”
The wrestling team faced the opposing school, along with the stricken athlete, just days earlier.
After consulting with Bro. Gary Cregan, the school’s principal, the team trainer and school nurse inspected every wrestler at St. Anthony’s, from the freshman team to the varsity.
“We did a skin check on every kid,” said Ed Modica, in his second year as the head athletic trainer at St. Anthony’s. “Anyone who had a possible issue we sent to get checked out further. And now we’ll continue to do that on a weekly basis until the season is over.”
The stakes have never been higher.
“The problem with these things is they usually start out looking like something simple – a pimple,” Modica said. “Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what it is. You have to be overly conservative. As you see with the wrestler fighting for his life, it can be catastrophic.”
Turns out no one at St. Anthony’s was diagnosed with MRSA and the athlete at the rival school has responded well to treatment, Modica said. The St. Anthony's junior varsity athlete who faced the infected wrestler wasn't allowed to participate again until he was given clearance by a doctor.
The room has been cleaned daily going back to the inception of the program in the early 1970s, according to Buckley. Still, the South Huntington school made everyone clear out their lockers and take clothes home to be washed while wrestling and locker rooms were thoroughly disinfected. Parents were also notified.
“Within the last five years MRSA has become a regular word in the training room,” Modica said. “It most likely started in hospital settings and slowly moved to the locker room and the athletic world.”
The near-fatal case of the Hauppauge wrestler shows that schools can’t do enough to combat a foe every bit as formidable as they’ve ever faced.