MRSA in the bursa of the elbow or other joints

In the publication, Health News Florida, one writer recently shared a alarming personal story titled, “How MRSA Almost Ate My Elbow,” in which something that had initially looked like a small bump – an insect bite maybe – close to his elbow developed into a swollen oozing wound that ate into the flesh of the elbow and forearm.  This article came out shortly after reports in late August of a MRSA outbreak among football players on the Tampa Buccaneers, accompanied by commentary from former football players who had struggled with the deadly infection; among them was a recent interview with ex-Browns player, Ben Taylor, who got infected with MRSA in the bursa of his elbow.

A bursa is a sac or cavity filled with fluid; their purpose is to ease friction where they’re located in the body.  You’ll find them at various joints including the elbows, knees, and shoulders; their inflammation is known as ‘bursitis.’  These sacs can also host infections, including those arising from the powerful, antibiotic-resistant strain of MRSA.

Even what seems to be a minor cut can result in a powerful infection.  All MRSA cases should be addressed seriously, but the most severe infections – the ones most likely to result in difficult, protracted treatment, long-term impairments, and death – have spread to the bloodstream.  Among athletes, MRSA can spread in locker room and gym environments, through even minor abrasions sustained to the elbows, forearms, hands, knees, and other body parts.

What happens when it hits the elbow? Depending on the severity of the infection and when it’s caught, treatments could involve the following:

The long-term effects of MRSA and of its treatments could include long-term tissue damage and loss of joint function.  Rehabilitation to restore joint functioning and muscle strength may be required.  Athletes who contract the infection can suffer irrevocable career reversals.

MRSA spreads quickly, so it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible.  When it comes to the elbow or another joint, don’t immediately dismiss any redness, swelling, or small bumps as a minor matter.  The infection can progress rapidly, so don’t ignore worsening symptoms, especially if there’s an abrupt change, such as sudden swelling.  And if you do experience MRSA in the elbows or other joints, discuss the long-term prognosis for joint functioning with your physician.

Dr. John Knight
Dr. John Knight

Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.