By Savannah Malnar
Flu outbreaks aren’t uncommon around this time of the year in professional sports leagues. What is uncommon is the appearance of the mumps in the NHL. Professional athletes are forced to spend an excessive amount of time together in close contact, between sharing rooms on road trips and water bottles in the locker rooms. So when a contagious illness hits one player, it’s likely to spread throughout the team. The interesting aspect about these illnesses is that in the NHL they can spread pretty easily to other teams as well, with all the hard hits and the fighting bringing rival players into physical contact.
The outbreak of the disease started in Anaheim with the defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Clayton Stoner, along with star forward Corey Perry. Other teams that have since reported cases include the Minnesota Wild, the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The NHL is doing everything in its power to bring awareness to the disease and ensure that the players have access to booster shots or the initial mumps immunization if they did not receive it as a child.
The media’s primary concern right now seems to be the quality of the game with a disease like this going around. What will the Penguins do without Sidney Crosby while he recovers? Did the Ducks lose games they could have won if Perry wasn’t ill?
One ESPN article brought attention to a less talked about side of the epidemic; the American Hockey League. The AHL is a development league for the NHL, and players move up and down between the leagues on daily basis. Two players and one head coach in the AHL have come down with this sickness. The total amount of hockey players affected is up to 18.
Dr. Gregory Poland, the director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group, believes that this outbreak is not actually all that uncommon. “To be very frank with you, if 13 students at a junior college in rural Arizona had mumps, you and I wouldn’t be talking. It gets hyped because it’s in (professional athletes),” Poland said. Poland also stressed making sure all players receive the immunization they need; from there it’s just a waiting game. There are no cures or antibiotics available for the disease, so hockey players will just have to do what they do best: tough it out.