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Long Island High School Sued After Sweaty Wrestling Mats Lead to MRSA

25 Aug, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic
Mats Allegedly Were Not Cleaned for Seven Years, Resulting in Multiple Cases of Staph

A school is the basis of a lawsuit that claims students contracted a virulent staph infection when personnel failed to clean or flip over sweat-soaked wrestling mats for seven years.

All together now: eeeeeeeeyyyyyeeeeewwww.

The suit, which is for $12 million, alleges that the dirty wrestling mats led to five cases of MRSA, as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is nicknamed,  among wrestlers at Rocky Point High School in Yaphank, New York.

According to The New York Post, Anthony Lucia Sr., the father of the unnamed plaintiff, is accusing the school district of neglecting to maintain basic cleanliness and for failing to notify parents about the infections in a timely manner. Lucia, whose son was hospitalized for five days after a lump on his knee showed signs of MRSA and was surgically removed, alleges that the wrestling mats in the school’s gym went seven years without a cleaning.

“This student athlete and his peers were recklessly exposed to losing life and limb because of the school’s negligence,” said Lucia’s attorney, Vesselin Mitev. “No high-school wrestler signs up to be eaten alive.”

According to the Post, Rocky Point administrators “acknowledged the MRSA spread but told parents it was a treatable condition and that panic was unnecessary.” The school district also warned parents to expect more cases of MRSA.

The best means of preventing MRSA is regular cleaning of gym and athletic equipment to kill the bacteria. (An increasing number of health clubs, for example, supplies antibacterial wipes to use on machines before and after use.) School locker rooms are a breeding ground for staph: chronic underfunding often leads to lax janitorial procedures.

MRSA in locker rooms is not limited to the local level, and has even made an appearance in athletic facilities for professional athletes. In 2013, three players for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers contracted the infection. The Cleveland Browns saw six players acquire staph in the five years from 2003 until 2008. Peyton Manning was treated for MRSA in 2008, and Kenny George, a former center for the University of North Carolina-Asheville, suffered a staph infection complication that led to part of his foot being amputated.

While cleaning protocols exist to disinfect hard surfaces, padded, absorbent materials such as gym mats are more difficult to clean and more likely to harbor bacteria. Athletes with scrapes or cuts are more likely to contract MRSA. A study conducted last year by IDWeek found that contact sport athletes are more than twice as likely to be carrying MRSA as compared to their non-contact sport counterparts.

The fear of MRSA has led to a rash (see what we did there?) of products that can be sprayed on surfaces and wiped on just-worn equipment. Doctors have warned against buying the air-freshener-style products, noting that since MRSA lives on surfaces and not in the air, they are ineffective.

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