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September 22, 2009The international Flu scare is a very real concern in every walk of life and in every corner of the world. The sporting world is not immune to the scares of potential pandemics that could strike at a moment's notice and infect people without any sort of discrimination. And while not every case of the flu can be linked with the highly contagious Swine Flu, nobody wants to take a chance on what many promise to be one of the worst flu seasons in at least a generation.
Professional and college sports teams have had to take precautions and there have been scares at all levels of teams of the illness of one player sparking to a full-fledged outbreak within the locker room. This has been a concern for the Buckeyes after punter Jon Thoma was told not to travel with the team to Cleveland for Saturday's game against Toledo with reported flu like symptoms.
"It's real," head coach Jim Tressel said on Tuesday afternoon at his weekly press conference. "Although Jon kept calling on Friday night, 'I'm feeling better, my fever is down all that', it was both hey, protect Jon, but also protect the rest of the team."
And with that college training staffs and coaching staffs have had to deal the scary reality of something taking off.
"I talked to Houston Nutt the other night and if they'd have played two weekends ago, they'd have been without 19 starters," Tressel added.
So with teams across the nation either having to quarantine players or make special arrangements, what changes have the Ohio State players noticed around the training facility?
"You have to always be aware of those things and I feel that our trainers are doing a great job in keeping things clean and keeping us aware of what is going on and the steps that we need to take to stay healthy," offensive lineman Bryant Browning said.
Tressel also added that educating the players about the way the flu is passed and contracted was a big part of prevention.
"We had our team doctor speak to the entire athletic department about the realities of what's out there," Tressel said.
"We are very aware if you feel like you have some symptoms of being sick we take it serious," running back Marcus Williams said. "But we are not walking on eggshells, you can't be scared. It is the flu and you might sick but you just need to take the proper precautions. If you are sick you go to the doctor or the trainer and get it taken care of."
There are other ways for players to avoid unnecessary contact even if it means changing the way that they greet each other in the hallways of the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex.
"You're supposed to elbow bump, that's the newest thing, so you go back to the office, give a little - 's'happening,' you know," Tressel said after demonstrating with a member of the media. "So wash your hands a lot and elbow bump, stay rested, stay hydrated, but there's 60,000 students coming, it's real."
Have the players caught on with the new greeting?
"(Laugh) I guess I do elbow bump people every once in a while," Browning joked. "But it's not really at the top of my list."
"We use the elbow bump I guess," linebacker Ross Homan said. "We have the hand sanitizers put up throughout the locker room and they say never pass one without using it. It is a huge concern and I guess a lot of teams in the nation have been stricken to it and I hope we can just avoid it."