Teams Clearing the Air to Avoid Illness

BY NICK CAFARDO

April 13, 2017 The Red Sox are the sickest team in baseball. According to research done by Surgically Clean Air Inc. of Toronto, the Sox have led the major leagues in days missed by sickness since 2011 with 85 (and that doesn’t count 2017) at a cost of more than $3.9 million, or about $45,882 per game lost because of sickness.

The data was obtained through the Pro Sports Transactions website, which keeps track of transactions involving published illnesses.

The Red Sox have suffered greatly from a stomach ailment since midway through spring training, although some of the victims have recently returned to work.

Hanley Ramirez, Brock Holt, Robbie Ross Jr., Mookie Betts, Joe Kelly, and Mitch Moreland all have been affected. Obviously, this data isn’t complete.

There are times when a player might be sick and the team doesn’t announce it. So there could be more instances thanthose recorded.

The Red Sox’ opponents Wednesday night, the Baltimore Orioles, are one of the teams thatinstalled the Surgically Clean Air system in their Camden Yards clubhouse three years ago.“We felt we had to try something,” said general manager Dan Duquette.

“In our sport you have a lot of guys in close quarters in the clubhouse, in the showers, on the airplanes, and germs spread. You get
one guy with something, next thing you know two or three guys have it. So, has it worked? I guess you have to measure it by days missed because of illnesses, and while I haven’t studied all the data, it seems as though there’s been an improvement in that area on our team.”

Even though manager Buck Showalter said this week that the Orioles don’t publicize their sicknesses (though if a player misses a game because of one, it’s made public), Baltimore is a pretty healthy team. According to Rob Ruznisky, Surgically Clean Air, when the Orioles decided to buy in they had lost 26 days to illness. Over the next three years, they lost 10 games total.

The Red Sox lost 10 games in 2016 alone.

The Blue Jays became a client in 2012. In the five years previous, sickness had cost the Jays $704,000.

Over the last five years that number has been reduced to $107,000. The Oakland Athletics are also using it.

The A’s always are finding ways to maximize their players staying on the field given their small market status and the air system apparently has worked.

The NBA’s Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks are using it, as are the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Vancouver Canucks. Ruznisky says a 2,000 square foot clubhouse can be covered by a $7,000 unit.

That’s the price of socks for a month for some teams. When Hanley Ramirez misses a game because of illness, that’s $140,000 in salary missing that day from the lineup.

The air units have been installed in mostly hospitals and dental offices, but once Ruznisky started getting into sports, he was amazed by how little the topic of air quality had been broached. “Most teams hadn’t even thought about it,” he said.

“If it saves one player from missing a day on the field or on the ice or on the court the unit pays for itself tenfold.” The Red Sox already have been decimated by illness.

Ruznisky has no idea how it started or how it spread. “Obviously we can’t prevent a player going home and catching something from his child,” he said. “But we can help the spread of it once the player comes back into the clubhouse.” So, what’s the reason for the high rate of illness among the Red Sox? Could it be Fenway Park and the fact that it’s the oldest facility in baseball and perhaps the air quality isn’t as good as some of the newer ballparks? Of course, the symptoms started in Fort Myers, where JetBlue Park is a relatively new facility.

But the condition did escalate once the team returned to Boston for the season opening series against the Pirates. According to Ruznisky, the air system “destroys the airborne viruses.

A cough can travel 100 feet, and that’s why we’re in hospitals and dental offices. Sports teams weren’t even tracking this. We’re helping prevent it.

We can help prevent it from spreading. A lot of guys go down at the same chunk of time.
If we break down the airborne viruses, the chances it’s going to be passed on is reduced tremendously.

If a flu shot reduces the chances of getting the flu by 40 percent and we can reduce it another 20 percent by adding our machines, then I think that’s worth it.”

“One of the trainers I deal with said, ‘If I don‘t get this machine I’m not doing everything I can to help my players.’ The Raptors’ trainer made everybody in the starting lineup buy one for their homes. The Raptors had the lowest number of illnesses the last two seasons.” Ruznisky said his company also is making a unit on wheels that can be used on team charters, another place where germs can spread rapidly.

The Red Sox recently put an air purifier in the middle of their clubhouse, one that had been sitting in a trainer’s room for a couple of years unused, but it’s unlikely to kill viruses. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said the organization doesn’t have plans to install a new air system in their clubhouse,

“but we’re going to look into it.”