Team water bottles stacked around the benches
are such a common sight that most of us give them little thought. However,
the evidence is overwhelming that this is a hidden danger for hockey.
Common sense tells us that shared water bottles significantly increase
the odds that communicable illnesses will be spread among the team--even
when players attempt to squirt the water into their mouths.
Colds and flu are bad enough, but meningitis is also spread this way.
Here is an overview of the problem and what can be done about it. (This
information was taken from a variety of web resources. While details may
vary from source to source, there is considerable agreement on key issues.)
Note on the meningitis vaccinations: Public health officials do not single
out members of sports teams as a specific high risk group
- Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane covering the brain.
There are a number of different types of the disease, both bacterial
and viral. The viral form rarely causes death.
- Enteroviruses, or viral meningitis, is the most common form seen in
the US and tends to cause very mild meningitis
- Somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of the population carry a meningitis
bacteria or virus and show no ill effects.
- Meningitis is fatal about 10% of the time. In the last decade its
frequency has been increasing. Currently, there are about 3000 occurrences
a year in the US.
- The Alberta government reports meningitis most often hits children
five and under and between 15 and 19, for reasons which are not clearly
- More information is available at Intelihealth.
Here's a clear description from an Australian
web site and another from the Centers
for Disease Control.
Meningitis Vaccinations (New Vaccination
available as of 2005)
- A new meningitis vaccination, Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4),
was approved in 2005. The CDC
has a clear explanation of meningitis vaccinations and how they
work. The CDC is recommending "For
those who have never gotten MCV4 previously, a dose is recommended at
high school entry." (NOTE: On Oct. 1, 2005, a New
York Times article dealt with five 17-18 year olds who came down
with Guillain-Barré syndrome after they received the vaccination.
Two and a half million doses of MCV4 have been distributed. At the time
of the article, it was unclear if the cases were related to MCV4.)
- MCV4 is available in Wyoming through Public Health
for about $70 a shot.
Meningitis Vaccine Offers Greater Protection" Health article
from the Palm Beach Post.
- "Together Educating
About Meningitis" Stories from teens who have survived meningitis
-- often only after amputations. The site also includes a
fact page about the disease and vaccinations and notes "For
those who have not previously been vaccinated, CDC also recommends immunization
for young adults before entering high school or at about age 15 (whichever
comes first) and for college freshmen living in dormitories Additionally,
CDC states all other adolescents and college students wishing to reduce
their risk may elect to be immunized.The American Academy of Pediatrics
and American Academy of Family Physicians have released similar recommendations
targeting adolescents and college students.
- The Canadian Hockey Association Team
Hygiene Recommendations including making sure each player has a
labeled water bottle.
- The Texas
Medical Center News, in reporting on a 2001 outbreak of Meningitis,
recommends that "All sports participants should have their own
bottles or cups for water."
- The Lethebridge
Hockey Association has excellent recommendations on how to prevent
- keep personal water bottles with name and number on bottle and
lid for each player
- Squirt the water into the mouth.
- Leave the bottle spout open during the game
- Don't top off a bottle with water from other bottles
- Carry the bottle in a zip lock when it is carried in an equipment
bag. Change the bag after each game.
- The Meningitis
Research Foundation of Canada recommends " School athletic,
coaching personnel, and athletes should make every effort to ensure
that they do not share the following items with other team members:
water bottles, [or] mouth guards . . . ."
- The Canadian
Hockey Association recommends "Players should have their own
drinking or squeeze bottles to prevent transmissions of viruses and
bacteria" in their Hockey
Canada Safety Program.
- "Outbreaks of aseptic meningitis-like illnesses have occurred
in high school football players for reasons that may include the close
contact among players and the overlap of football season with the peak
enterovirus season." -- "Aseptic
Meningitis: A Seasonal Concern", from The Physician and
Sports Medicine. (1997)