The Playing Field

Sport and culture through the lens of science

Antiobiotics and the NFL

A Different Kind Of Drugs In Sports Nightmare

It's hard to say exactly where the problem started, but 1951 is not a bad guess. That was the year the FDA approved antibiotic use in animals without a veterinary prescription.

As a result, today, we give about 13 million tons of antibiotics a year to farm animals and this number is further compounded by the 190 million doses of antibiotics administered each day in hospitals.

Among non-hospitalized patients, more than 133 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed each year, of which, according to the American College of Physicians, "an estimated that 50 percent are unnecessary since they are being prescribed for colds, coughs and other viral infections."

Antibiotic resistance-the ability of a microorganism to withstand the effects of antibiotics-is the result. This occurs when strains of bacteria in the human body begin to mutate into new strains of bacteria that the old drugs can't kill.

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While there are lots of problems resultant from this particular mess, for the purposes of this story, the one that matters most is that there are no new drugs to replace the now old failures.

And this brings us to Tom Brady. 19 minutes into the first game of the season, the Patriots's star quarterback went down with a torn MCL/ACL in his knee. He had surgery and afterward the joint got infected and Brady was given antibiotics. Because of antibiotic resistance, this treatment didn't work so he went back in on October 15th to "clean and test the wound," and was, of course, treated with even more antibiotics.

He now has a septic joint and another ancillary infection and the new ligaments installed to replace the old are being threatened by this infection. Another surgery is also in the offing, and more infection the risk there too.

It is now possible that Tom Brady-the face of the NFL- may never throw another pass in the NFL.

Nor is this problem being seen in Brady alone. The Colt's superstar Peyton Manning had two surgeries last summer, the second because of antibiotic resistant infection, and is still not playing right. Both Joe Jurevicius and Kellem Winslow, two Cleveland Browns, currently have drug-resistant staph infections, with Jurevicius now lost for the year as a result. Junior Seau, Corey Jenkins, Kevin O'Neil, Lorenzo Neil and Dequincy Scott all are either suffering from staph or have recently fought it off. In fact, so dire is this threat, that the NFL just issued a league wide warning about the problem.

So the next time you wonder what the big deal about organic food is, well, think of Tom Brady and you'll know.

 

 

Steven Kotler is an author and journalist. His most recent works include: Abundance, A Small Furry Prayer  and West of Jesus.

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