How turf burn nearly killed a high school football player


It was a Friday night like any other at a Texas high school when 16-year-old wide receiver Boone Baker received an abrasion from the artificial football field.

Known as “turf burn,” the minor injury is a common one, especially among football and baseball players.

But it’s also exactly the kind of skin injury methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus — or MRSA — can exploit.

MRSA is a strain of drug-resistant staph bacteria which, without treatment, can be deadly.

It almost was for Baker. By Monday, he had developed a purplish boil that required draining and a round of antibiotics.

Two months later, Boone was back in emergency with flu-like symptoms, back pain and irregular breathing. He was admitted into the ICU, diagnosed with MRSA infection.

“He was dying despite massive doses of antibiotics,” said Eric Brown, Canada Research Chair in Microbial Chemical Biology, who used Baker’s story at a 2013 TEDxMcMasterU talk to illustrate how important antibiotic-resistance research is.

Baseball-sized abscesses were removed from the base of Baker’s spine, and more antibiotics were prescribed to fight the infection, which had spread to his eye.

Surgery was also needed to treat a subsequent lung infection.

After three weeks in the ICU and months at home on IV antibiotics, Baker was finally cured.

“The moral of this story really is that, despite the ready availability of antibiotics, we’re seeing more and more cases like Boone Baker,” said Brown, a member of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

The full TEDxMcMasterU talk can be viewed below: