I was shocked to see that the NHL is battling an outbreak of mumps — yes, the mumps. It’s a disease from my generation’s childhood that we in the medical community thought was kaput.
Not so. It has affected a handful of teams, taking players completely off the ice for up to a week. The Minnesota Wild has 5 players out sick. Though complications are limited, waiting it out for a week seems like an eternity to an athlete.
Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic. Hockey officials are questioning whether players should be tested for immunity and given booster shots.
Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion. Originally aired on 1590 WAKR-AM on Dec. 10, 2014.
HORNER: Dr. Joe onboard with us right now, Dr. Joe Congeni. Joe, what do you have for us today?
DR, CONGENI: Hey, Ray. How you doin’ today?
HORNER: I’m doin’ well.
DR, CONGENI: Good. We don’t get to do a hockey story much, but there’s an interesting hockey story that I think might give us a little heads up for all the winter sports teams.
You know, the winter sports teams are all traveling together and in close quarters. We sometimes talk about things like flu and infections, but I don’t know if you saw the story about, uh, some NHL players that are being taken off the ice and missing time due to the mumps virus.
HORNER: I did not.
DR, CONGENI: Yeah. And so, there’s an outbreak of mumps going on in the NHL. Right now, it’s affected 9 of 600 or so players in the NHL, so it’s not a full outbreak. It’s affected 3 or 4 different teams. One team, the Minnesota Wild, has 5 players out with mumps.
Mumps is one of those childhood infections that we thought was gone. You know, but it made a big comeback in the year 2014.
It seems like the flu early on. The symptoms are going to be aches and pains and headaches and tiredness. But after a few days into this course, what starts to happen is you start getting swelling of the salivary glands around the jaw; very significant redness, swelling and fever in the jaw that is known as mumps.
And again, many people that grew up back in the days that I did … remember seeing people with mumps. Maybe early, very early in my peds career [I saw] mumps, but we just don’t see it much anymore.
The reason is kids started to get vaccinated in the ’60s and the ’70s. In the late ’80s, we went to 2 doses, which is like 88 percent effective in keeping mumps away. Um, but what ended up happening is there’s been an outbreak again.
You know, we always talk about Ohio being the heart of it all. The biggest outbreak in the year 2014 was in central Ohio, mainly around Ohio State, over 500 cases of the mumps.
Generally, it’s self-limited. You know, [it’s not] a big deal. You just kinda wait it out and see how it goes. There are a handful of cases that can get a viral meningitis-type picture or other complications, but generally, it’s waiting it out.
But for athletes, it takes about a full week of waiting it out before you’re gonna be strong enough and the swollen glands in the neck start to go back down. These are significantly big swollen glands that these kids get.
So really … the only question out there, Ray, is should these players on other teams be checked to see did they get their childhood shots, do they still have immunity, should we give booster shots? Those answers are to come down the road.
So, this is just a heads up for those winter teams that are traveling together. Watch out for those childhood infections, particularly mumps.
HORNER: Alright, sounds good, Joe. Thanks for the few minutes, my friend.
DR. CONGENI: Okay. Have a great week, Ray. Thanks.
HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center, Akron Children’s Hospital.