Top 10 Diseases That Have Affected Sports

Every time a professional sports league goes through what the NHL is going through now,  it makes the average fan wonder: "how are these well conditioned athletes, who are so much 'healthier' than the rest of us, all get so sick?"

There are a number of reasons that might explain the issue, but we're not doctors - what we do know is that the NHL, like other leagues before it, has quite the problem on their hands.

The first diagnosed cases of the mumps were passed off as coincidence, a "one-off" that was going to end up making Francois Beauchemin and several other Anaheim Ducks teammates the butt-end of jokes in their locker room and around the league.

Then it started spreading, and the potential for laughing about it evaporated as quickly as Sidney Crosby's cheeks were growing. As many as 13 players (now probably higher) and at least two referees have contracted the disease since it broke out - while everyday brings a report of a player who's overcome it, it is usually followed by news of a new case somewhere else around the league.

Many have mused over what might be causing the outbreak. Perhaps its the proximity on the ice, or even off the ice; if one thing is certain, though, it's that the NHL needs to get this problem under control as soon as possible, before they are forced to do something drastic about it.

And while the NHL deals with it's current medical dilemma, history shows that this is not the first time a professional sports league has been affected by a contagious outbreak or a troubling trend of disease.

Perhaps Gary Bettman and the league should look back in the vault (as we did) and see how other sports leagues dealt with their epidemic issues - and no, Gary, a lockout is not a potential solution to dealing with the NHL's mumps situation.

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10  10. The Flu (All Sports)

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The "common" flu will not start picking off athletes (at least not these days, as you'll see later in the article), but it has certainly made its mark on athletes and teams throughout the years. It usually starts with one or two guys listed with "flu-like" symptoms. It becomes a major issue when anymore than the first few infected start also feeling sick, as lineups quickly get depleted and some players are forced to play through some fairly harsh symptoms. Some, like Michael Jordan, have found a way to turn their bout with the flu into the stuff of legends, but for the most part a flu getting into a professional locker room usually leads to teams bringing in sterilizing teams to get rid of the illness before it grips the entire organization.

9 ALS (Baseball, Football)

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), to put it bluntly, is vicious. It robs the afflicted of the control of their muscles and effectively shuts a human down until they pass. The disease first came to the forefront of the sporting world when Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS many years ago. While medical advancements have been made to combat the disease, it has still found a way to ravage the sporting world. Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Eric Scoggins, Glenn Montgomery, Jeff Julian, Ezzard Charles, Charlie Wedemeyer, George Yardley, O.J. Brigance, Steve Gleason and Orlando Thomas are several of the many professional athletes who've also been touched by the disease - and while it is heartbreaking, the impact made by men like Gehrig and Gleason can also be uplifting and inspirational.

8 CTE (Football, Hockey)

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For decades, headshots were a common part of sport - they were even celebrated. No one thought anything of concussions other than to take an Advil, shake it off and get back out there. The mindset has changed drastically in recent years, as concussions are being taken more seriously than ever and are even creating divides between professional organizations and the players who used to participate in high-contact sports like hockey and football. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is the main cause of this divide - the result of countless blows to the head causing a degeneration in the brain that has led to countless athlete deaths including NHLers Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard and Rick Martin, as well as recent NFLers Junior Seau and Jovan Belcher, among countless others, who have had complications, passed, or even taken their own lives in part due to the effects of the repeated head trauma during their careers.

7 SARS (2003 Arafura Games)

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SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Symptoms) is best remembered in North America for it's "stint" on this side of the pond, specifically as it ripped through Toronto. The SARS epidemic also did a significant amount of damage in Australia - and notably on the sporting scene. The 2003 Arafura Games (an event that includes both abled and disabled athletes in the same competitions) had to be postponed and ultimately cancelled due to the outbreak of the disease in the region where the games are usually held (Darwin). While no athletes were reported to be affected physically, the disease took away the chance for hundreds of athletes to compete.

6 Norovirus (NBA)

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The National Basketball Association was hit with its own internal epidemic in 2010 when the norovirus spread through a reported 13 teams and at least 21 players and staff members across those teams affected. The norovirus is one of the more prevalent causes of gastroenteritis, according to MediLexicon International, who also noted that the disease was most certainly aided along by the rigorous schedule of professional athletes and the close proximity in which teammates and opposing players find themselves in on a daily basis throughout the season.

5 Mumps (NHL)

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The Mumps have been the NHL's biggest concern of this still relatively young season, as the contagious disease has quickly found its way across the league. As mentioned earlier, it seems like every passing day brings news of new cases popping up across the league. The disease is having a relatively easy time of getting across the continent - it started in California but has found its way to the East Coast (most notably affecting Sidney Crosby). One of the main issues with the disease hitting the NHL, of all leagues, is the toughness issue - not to say that other sports are not tough, but rather that hockey players tend to have the mentality that they would be able to play with a broken leg and still be able to contribute. That's why it was alarming to see Crosby meet with media members after practice with his face looking like an overfilled water balloon.

4 Ebola (Africa Nations Cup)

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To say the mentality regarding Ebola has changed significantly since it was first reported several months ago would be an understatement. What was once questioned is now feared, as Ebola has torn through Africa and affected nearly every continent. The outbreak found it's way into the sporting scene, of course, on a number of levels. The Africa Nations Cup, considered the continent's biggest international soccer event (similar to the EURO Championship) was potentially going to be hosted in Morocco next year - until the country backed off due to fear of the disease disrupting the tournament.

3 Ebola (Soccer Bans)

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Not only has the Ebola outbreak sparked controversies in Africa with regards to future events, but it has already had a major impact on the current landscape of sport in Africa. The Confederation of African Football made the decision to ban all international football matches or activity in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia back in September. This had an effect on the aforementioned Africa Nations Cup, as games had to be rescheduled (and it wasn't the first rescheduling, either). Those three countries were hit especially hard by Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, so the decision to move games was a no-brainer.


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The seemingly invincible National Football League got hit hard by a case of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a contangious staph infection that can be deadly if not treated immediately. The NFL has a bit of a history with MRSA, as there was an outbreak in the mid-2000's that hit the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns (and even ended the career of former Redskin Brandon Noble). Last season, the infection found its way into the locker room of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (as if they didn't have enough woes last season), notably hampering Carl Nicks, Lawrence Tynes and Johnthan Banks.

1 Spanish Flu (NHL)

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Remember earlier when we scoffed at the notion of the flu causing any sort of "real" issues in a professional sports setting? That wasn't the case nearly a century ago. Not only was the Stanley Cup Final cancelled because of the Spanish Flu, it also claimed a life. The disease had reached North America after festering in Europe. It made its mark on hockey in 1918-1919 during the finals between the Montreal Canadiens and the Seattle Metropolitans. The series began without issues, but once the influenza hit, it hit hard - four Canadiens players and manager George Kennedy caught the Spanish Flu, as did "Bad" Joe Hall, who got it worse than any of his teammates. Hall was hospitalized and eventually passed a week later.

Besides the cancelled 2004-2005 season, the 1918-1919 season was the only year where no champion was crowned.

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