Former Football Player Sues Over Staph Infection

Friday, November 2nd 2007, 7:11 am
By: News On 6

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) _ A former college football player has sued Iona College over an antibiotic-resistant staph infection he says nearly cost him his leg two years ago.

Nick Zaffarese accused team trainers of initially brushing off his burgeoning methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, infection in September 2005. He also called the team's locker room an unsanitary environment in which players shared towels and equipment.

Iona spokeswoman Cecilia Donohoe declined to comment on Zaffarese's lawsuit, filed this week in state Supreme Court in Westchester County. She said the New Rochelle college has a policy of refraining from discussing pending lawsuits.

But Donohoe called the college's athletic and other facilities immaculate.

``Our leadership does not tolerate unsanitary or unclean conditions,'' she said in an e-mailed statement.

The college recently disinfected a weight room and went over hygiene advice after 10 members of an athletic team were diagnosed with MRSA in September. The college has declined to identify the team.

While one student-athlete was hospitalized for a time, those cases were mild skin irritations, Donohoe said.

Zaffarese, now 23, said his bout with MRSA began with an ingrown hair on his inner thigh. He told trainers it was painful and swollen, but they did not advise him to seek medical attention until he told them it was oozing, according to his lawsuit. In the interim, he had gone home from a game with a high fever and collapsed, the lawsuit said.

``I got a call from my son telling me that his leg was black and he was going to have surgery,'' said the former player's father, Tony Zaffarese, of Pompton Plains, N.J. The younger Zaffarese said he ultimately had seven surgeries on the leg.

The lawsuit seeks more than $250,000 in damages.

A government report last month found that more than 90,000 Americans get potentially deadly staph infections each year. The bacteria has been blamed in the deaths of a New York City middle school student and a Virginia high school senior last month.