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Pro hockey players' health woes usually involve concussions or broken bones, but three NHL teams are fighting an unexpected ailment: the mumps.

Lisa Lombardi
November 14, 2014

Pro hockey players' health woes usually involve concussions or broken bones, but three NHL teams are fighting an unexpected ailment: the mumps.

Two players on the Anaheim Ducks—Corey Perry (above) and Francois Beauchemin—were diagnosed with the old-fashioned viral illness, reports CBS Sports, and there are probable cases on the teams of the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues.

Mumps is a contagious disease that often starts with fever, headache, body aches, and fatigue, followed by swollen salivary glands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While often mild in kids, the sickness can be more serious in adults, with possible complications such as hearing loss, meningitis (swelling of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal chord), and testicular inflammation.

Wonder why we hardly ever hear about mumps? The illness is pretty rare these days, thanks to the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccines given in childhood. Still, there's been a spike in cases in 2014, with 1,055 reported so far, says Walter Orenstein, MD, President-Elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. That's more than double the number seen in all of 2013.

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Part of the problem is that protection from some vaccines can wear off over time. With a growing number of American parents choosing to not vaccinate their children, and more people traveling internationally, the CDC recommends that adults born after 1957 who aren't sure if they've been fully vaccinated get at least one booster shot as an adult. The two Anaheim players had indeed been vaccinated in childhood, according to tweets from Los Angeles Times reporter Helene Elliott, who interviewed the team doctor. The entire Ducks hockey team is receiving MMR boosters, just in case.

It's key to make sure your own MMR shots are up to date, but not because you might catch mumps from a pro athlete; there's been a big resurgence of measles in the U.S., with cases at a 20-year high. While you're at it, look into your Tdap–Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis (whooping cough)—status, since whooping cough cases are also on the rise.

And as for that Outbreak on Ice: Ducks' star Corey Perry has returned to action, as have the Blues players; the two defensemen on the Wild are still sidelined. With a 12-25 day incubation period, mumps could make more skaters sick ("It's less contagious than measles but still very contagious," says Dr. Orenstein). Hockey players famously don't like to sit things out, though, so we're guessing that more NHL teams will be rolling up their hockey-jersey sleeves for a protective shot in the arm.

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