Mumps has made its way into the NHL. What in the world is going on? What exactly is mumps? And why is mumps suddenly an issue in this professional sport? Let’s dive right in, shall we?
What is mumps?
The CDC defines mumps on their website: “Mumps is a contagious disease that is caused by the mumps virus. Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and loss of appetite, and is followed by swelling of salivary glands. Anyone who is not immune from either previous mumps infection or from vaccination can get mumps.”
As you can see, mumps is no fun. It is a painful disease and very contagious. I seem to remember having mumps when I was a kid and that I had to stay home from school. Or was that mono? Anyway, the point is that having mumps is not something to treat lightly, especially when being in close quarters with others. For example, an NHL locker room would be an optimum location for spreading a contagious air-borne virus. CBSNews.com made this very observation today in its own story about mumps making the rounds in the NHL.
Who’s the culprit?
There really is no “culprit” per se as it is impossible to pin the exact time, date, place, and/or incident which
infected the first NHL player and subsequently led to others. Did someone sneeze on somebody or not wash their hands properly? (I’ll let you continue on with other possible variations on the theme of how it spread.) On December 6th, Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News broke down the possible timeline. As far as anyone can tell, Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin of the Anaheim Ducks were the first of four confirmed cases on their club in early November. While not an exact science, a possible thread developed wherein the Minnesota Wild played the Ducks and reports at least five cases. The St. Louis Blues also traveled to Anaheim and reports several cases, also.
Leonard was reporting on the mumps most likely because a New York Ranger has been affected. Around Thanksgiving, the Rangers’ Tanner Glass was diagnosed with mumps. Leonard quotes Glass as saying,
“I guess maybe I got run down a little bit or was a little tired when we hit Tampa. Who knows where I got it from?
The Rangers and Blues played on November 3rd so it may have been at that time when Glass picked up the virus.
Wherever and whenever and whoever it started with is really a non-issue at this juncture. The important thing is to do whatever is possible to stop the spread of the virus and hopefully keep it from making its way to every NHL locker room in the league.
It’s a “kid’s” illness
Mumps is traditionally an ailment that people get when they are kids. Late Friday it was revealed that it may very well be ‘Sid the kid’s” aliment, too.
The face of the NHL… http://t.co/pXxlamCNWg
— Steven Suchar (@stevensuchar) December 13, 2014
The Pittsburgh Penguins organization announced that Crosby had tested negative for the mumps virus, but was being held out of their next two games as “a precautionary measure.” At triblive.com, Pens’ GM Jim Rutherford was quoted as saying of Crosby,
“There is no indication at this time that this is the mumps, but we are going to hold him out as a precaution. We’ll have additional test results in a few days.”
There you go. Either Sidney Crosby has been punched in the jaw, has taken up chewing large amounts of tobacco, or likely has the mumps. In any event, the Penguins are taking precautions. That’s a good thing for Crosby and for anyone he may come in contact with, although we are assured the tests are “negative.”
It’s the Oregon Trail
On December 6th, Yahoo Sports featured Stephen Whyno’s great piece on the mumps and its impact on the
NHL. At that time, nine players had been affected. Ryan Suter of the Wild had joined his other affected teammates with his own case of the mumps. Teammate Zach Parise joked,
“What is this, the Oregon Trail? Where are we right now? Every team seems to get the flu once a year, but the mumps?”
In Pat Leonard’s piece I referenced earlier, Tanner Glass’ quote also included this nugget:
“It’s one of those things where you pick it up on the Oregon Trail or when you go to Tampa. I don’t know. Those are the two places you get it.”
I guess we’ll find out how the Tampa Bay Lightning feel about being glossed along with the Oregon Trail as one of the two places one can get mumps. In the meantime, the players seem to be taking it all in stride. One has to admit with Parise that it is a strange phenomenon circulating through the NHL. Mumps?
The NHL and the NHLPA are working to stop the spread of mumps among the organizations. Advisories have gone out and sites such as the Globe and Mail report that NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has said the following:
“It is certainly an outbreak that was unexpected and has caused unwanted disruption at the team level, but it is not something we have any significant control over. As long as our clubs are doing what they need to do to minimize risk of contraction, we are hopeful that the wave of cases will run their course and life will return to normal in the relatively near term.”
It is one of those things that is not a normal occurrence, but has to be dealt with nonetheless. Prevention may be elusive, but kind of like taking safeguards against a cold or the flu. For the sake of the players and fans and the entirety of the NHL, let’s hope that mumps is a short-lived phenomenon. If not, Dan Gustafson may have had a good idea at the outset:
Do we need an #NHLmumps tracker?
— 16 Wins (@16Wins) November 13, 2014
Apparently we do, as Travis Zajac and Adam Larsson of the New Jersey Devils have made the list. In an
article earlier on Friday, The Sporting News website reported what may be the answer to the spreading of mumps in the NHL. They quoted Dr. Judith Aberg, chief of the infectious diseases division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, who made it quite simple:
“You see the hits that they have, and sometimes the spraying of saliva. I think they are high risk. I am surprised we haven’t actually seen this before.”
There you have it. Let’s get those guys to either stop hitting each other or at least keep their mouths closed when they do. Of course, this doesn’t explain other cases of mumps that may crop up in non-NHL environments. If a college student gets mumps, is it because they “sprayed saliva?”
Anyway, if you need the latest, the CDC has its own NHL-dedicated link. It’s part serious with a bit of humor. One person wondering if NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman “released mumps into the league.” At least I think that’s the bit of humor part. Check it out. I just did and noticed the New Jersey Devils are on the list, too. I better go find some hand sanitizer. All this writing about mumps has made me a little nervous.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.