MRSA bacteria outbreak affects the scheduling of all sporting events



A sample of live MRSA bacteria in a laboratory at the University of Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Ashley Ferrer, Editor-in-Chief

A sample of live MRSA bacteria in a laboratory at the University of Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

On Friday, Jan. 31, five suspected cases of MRSA, or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, were reported during the Big 8 tournament at South Plantation High School, a district wrestling match. 

MRSA is a bacterial infection that can be contracted by either direct or indirect physical contact. It can be visible on the skin and is resistant to antibiotics. According to the CDC, “MRSA skin infections often appear as wounds or boils that are red, swollen, painful or have pus or another drainage.

The possible infections were discovered during weigh-in and the match was canceled until further notice. Seven schools including Cooper City High, Miramar High, Monarch High in Coconut Creek, Nova High in Davie, J.P. Taravella High in Coral Springs, West Broward High and Western High, were confirmed to have cases. 

The cancellation of the event left many wrestlers disappointed after they spent weeks training and cutting weight. 

“It was frustrating because we have been working really hard in the room and a lot of people had to cut weight so no one was happy about the decision,” senior Sarah Ochoa said. “But considering the circumstances, I would not want a staph infection, so it was a good call.”

Although there were no cases of MRSA at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, all wrestlers were sent by the Broward County Athletic Association to get skin tests. These physicals were done by local physician Harley Bofshever, and they had to be completed before the athletes were able to compete again.

“It made it easier since he’s familiar with us and the program, to be there [doing it with one doctor], instead of sending 30 different kids to 30 different doctors,” wrestling coach Kenny Gendason said. “We were one of the 22 schools that were [already] cleared.”

Not only did the possible cases affect the wrestling team, but all basketball games scheduled for Friday were canceled and the water polo team was temporarily instructed to leave the pool for precautionary reasons.

“Coaches got a message on Friday about canceling all practices or workouts, as a precaution,” water polo coach Jacob Abraham said. “We pulled our team out of the pool that night and there were even rumors swirling about MRSA in the district at the debate tournament we attended on Saturday.” 

Players were just as confused as their coaches were upon receiving the news.

“It [The cancellation of practice] was an inconvenience because we weren’t told until half-way through practice, and then we had to get out, and weren’t able to continue the practice,” water polo player Dara Jaffe said.

This past weekend the district ensured that all school athletic facilities were thoroughly cleaned in case of infection. 

“The district immediately began implementing measures to clean equipment, weight rooms, locker rooms including shower areas, gymnasiums and wrestling areas at all high schools,” District spokeswoman Kathy Koch said, according to a Feb. 3 article in the Sun-Sentinel. 

MSD athletic director Al Guzzo takes pride in the cleanliness and responsibility MSD athletics takes in the quality of their equipment. 

“Coach Gendaeson does a great job, our kids do a great job. He has a two-step process where he cleans the mat with water and a mop, then he gets another bucket with a disinfectant,” Guzzo said. “He makes sure the kids clean their clothes every night and keeps everything clean.” 

Protocol regarding those showing signs for infections such as MRSA states that they must have a note from their pediatrician to return to school. A letter restating this policy was sent to parents of students at the top seven affected schools.