Staph infections are no joke, and over the last few NFL seasons, there have been a number of NFL players who have been forced to deal with them. Back in 2013, the Buccaneers experienced a staph outbreak in their locker room, and in 2015, Giants tight end Daniel Fells almost had to have his foot amputated due to a staph infection. Doctors were able to avoid having to amputate in Fells’ situation, but staph ended his career, just like it has ended many other NFL players’ careers in the past. It’s a very serious illness.
On Tuesday morning, J.J. Watt—who didn't get to play much this NFL season because of a back injury—published a piece on The Players’ Tribune detailing the injuries he’s been forced to deal with over the last year. From a broken hand to torn abdominal muscles to a herniated disc, he’s been through it all. But according to him, it was a staph infection that almost changed the course of his career—and frankly, his entire life—last season.
Watt noticed some "weird bumps" on his knee just days before an October 2015 road game against the Jaguars, and thinking it was a rash, he asked a Texans’ trainer for some cream. The trainer took one look at his knee and said, "We have to get you to the hospital right now." And according to a team doctor who spoke with Watt later, that trainer’s quick thinking may have saved Watt from having to get his leg amputated. He was eventually diagnosed with a staph infection, and he had to undergo a series of treatments to get rid of it.
Here’s how Watt remembers the experience in his Players’ Tribune piece:
I thought he was joking at first. But then I could see in his face that he was serious and actually a bit panicked. As it turned out, he saved me in a big way. At the hospital, they immediately put me on three hours of the strongest antibiotic IVs. I went straight from the hospital to the team plane and we flew to Jacksonville. Once we landed, there were two more hours of antibiotics that night and two more the next morning before the game. The medicine had completely drained me, but I played — and we won.
I remember walking into the locker room after the game and just collapsing on the training table. My body was completely shot, with nothing left to give. As the trainers hooked me up to an IV, one of the guys walking past joked, "You alive?" Later that day on the flight back to Houston, one of the team doctors told me that if our trainer hadn’t recognized the problem so quickly, I could have lost my leg.
Crazy. Elsewhere in the piece, Watt admits that he briefly flirted with the idea of retiring after all the injuries he sustained and talks about what he’s been doing since the Texans put him on IR this season. He’s been back at home in Wisconsin rehabbing and enjoying a "mini-retirement" of sorts that has allowed him to take a break from football for the first time in years. He’s chomping at the bit to get back on the field, but he says his time away from football has allowed him to recapture his love for the sport.
"The kid in me is back," he writes at the end of the piece. "Am I done? Hell no. I’m just getting started."
You can check out Watt’s piece here.