Redskins flex muscle against tiny bacteria

Team looks to avoid staph infection that hit 3 players in '05

Pro football


ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins might be taking the same precautions as other NFL teams in regard to keeping their players hydrated in the oppressive heat wave that has accompanied the start of training camp, but the Redskins are going a little further to ensure that their players remain healthy once they hit the locker room.

In April, after repainting the walls and recarpeting the floors of the locker room at Redskins Park, team officials brought in a Detroit-based company to apply a coating of SportsAide, an advanced, anti-microbial protection that is believed to prevent the spread of MRSA, a bacterial staph infection that has proven resistant to many antibiotics and is becoming prevalent among athletes from the high school to professional level.

"It's a terrible infection. It can cripple your team," longtime Redskins trainer Bubba Tyer said yesterday.

Toronto Blue Jays players Ty Taubenheim and Alex Rios recently were found to have methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, a potentially life-threatening bacteria that is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Tyer said that five cases of MRSA have been discovered among members of the Redskins during the past two seasons, including three last year.

While most of the cases were mild, Brandon Noble's career was cut short after the sixth-year defensive tackle developed two serious staph infections in the hospital after knee surgery last year. Tyer said that Noble's struggle to regain his health was among the principal reasons why the Redskins went to the measures they have to keep others bacteria-free.

"There have been cases we've seen for years in the hospital setting, and in recent years we have seen it in the sports setting," Tyer said. "We're concerned about it. We don't want to lose any player. We don't want anything to affect their career and we want to do all that we can do, whatever we can do, to make our place safer. Our goal is to have zero cases of MRSA this season."

Following the mandate of team president Daniel Snyder and coach Joe Gibbs, Tyer considered three companies before settling on Sports Antimicrobial System of Rochester Hills, Mich., which markets SportsAide as well as TurfAide, a coating applied to synthetic turf fields and a SportsAide fabric conditioner for towels and uniforms.

SAS uses a colorless, odorless product that creates an anti-microbial shield to attract the negatively charged microbes that cause MRSA. When the negatively charged microbes (bacteria) approach the shield, they are electrocuted.

In addition to applying SportsAide to the locker room at Redskins Park, the locker rooms at FedEx Field will be similarly treated, Tyer said.

Wendy Orthman, director of integrated marketing communications for SAS, said during a visit to Redskins Park yesterday that the company has had dialogue with 10 other NFL teams as well as up to 50 major universities. Orthman said that Virginia Tech uses TurfAide for its indoor football practice facility.

According to Bob Eller, senior director of operations for the Ravens, the team has used a hospital disinfectant on all of its artificial fields every two weeks since the Owings Mills practice facility opened in 2004. The team also has a cleaning service that uses industrial-grade disinfectants daily in the shower and training room.

Tyer declined to discuss how much the Redskins paid for the treatment, and Ortman said that the company charges $1.50 per square foot for SportsAide.

"Thirty percent of the people who've been tested for it -- and all of our players have been tested -- have a staph colony growing in their nose or their navel; 1 percent of that 30 is MRSA," Tyer said.

NOTE -- Former Falcons and Raiders offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy, a two-time Pro Bowl selection who hasn't played an NFL game since the 2003 season, was checked out by the Redskins' training staff but, coach Joe Gibbs said, "There were some medical issues there, so we didn't work him out."

Sun reporter Jamison Hensley and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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