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Wednesday, November 17, 2010
When infections bite

By Henry Abbott

The Warriors make a doctor available to the media, to discuss poor David Lee who is still hospitalized after knocking out Wilson Chandler's tooth with his now-infected elbow.

The collision was last Wednesday. Since then, Lee developed massive swelling in the elbow. He has been hospitalized much of the time, and had two procedures to clean infection.

The thinking is that the Warriors took the step of getting the doctor to talk in no small part to alleviate concerns that their training staff did not treat the wound as well as they might have. And sure enough, Bill Maloney, M.D. is quoted by Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle letting the staff off the hook:
"I know there is a lot of speculation out there, but it almost doesn't matter how it was treated. I don't think they could have avoided this. The die was cast when he got the tooth through the skin with a deep enough puncture wound to allow the bacteria to get in there."

"It almost doesn't matter how it was treated," is just a fascinating thing for a doctor to say, isn't it? It kind of made me shake my head and wonder: Really?

Just for fun, I went over to WebMD to see what they had to say about the treatment of human bites. I had a feeling they'd recommend some specific steps.

But in fact ... WebMD is pretty vague and low-key about the whole thing, too. Flushing with water, and maybe some mild antiseptic is about the extent of it, so long as your tetanus shots are current. They recommend against things like dumping a bunch of hydrogen peroxide or alcohol into the wound which can damage the tissue and "do more harm than good."

Surprising. And nice to hear that this evidently was not a blatant case of poor medical care.

Also, one idea: What about requiring players to wear mouth guards? Not that these events are all that common, but it seems a very small price to pay -- the most minor of inconveniences -- to avoid the occasional serious injury.

UPDATE: Dirk Nowitzki's elbow met Carl Landry's mouth last season. Nowitzki got an infection, and Landry ended up in the emergency room with missing teeth, even though Landry was wearing a mouth guard. That's proof mouth guards aren't a perfect solution, but also, I suppose, a case where one probably helped a lot -- presumably the injuries could have been even worse.