Blake Griffin staph infection: Q&A with Dr. David Nazarian

Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter and Clippers forward Blake Griffin, front, battle for position under the basket during a game on Jan. 28.
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

Clippers power forward Blake Griffin will have surgery Monday to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

The team won’t have a timetable for Griffin’s return until after his surgery, but he’s expected to miss anywhere from 10 days to six weeks. He will definitely be out for the the All-Star game Feb. 15 in New York, with Portland’s Damian Lillard taking his place.

Griffin has had issues with his right elbow in the past.

In 2012, he suffered a burst bursa sac in the elbow and in 2013 he needed to have the bursa sac drained after his elbow became inflamed. He had his elbow drained in New York earlier this week while dealing with bursitis, but the staph infection caught the Clippers by surprise.

When the Clippers landed in Oklahoma City on Saturday, Griffin went directly to the hospital because his elbow was unusually swollen.

Griffin was averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game while shooting 50.1%.


The Times conducted an interview with Dr. David Nazarian, who is not treating Griffin, to learn more about staph infecitions.

How does one develop a staph infection?

Certain bacteria commonly live on the skin of humans without ever causing harm. The two most common bacteria found on the skin include Staphylococcus aureus, commonly called “staph” and Group A streptococcus, often called “strep.” These bacteria can sometimes cause skin infections and other infections if they enter the body through cuts, a break in the skin or wounds. Skin infection caused by a staph organism can present with cellulitis, an infection of the deeper layer of the skin, or pockets of pus.

Infectious arthritis or septic joint is a form of arthritis that is caused by an infection in the joint by organisms like staph. The organism needed a point of entry to infect the joint space. The infection could have occurred after drainage of the joint space with a needle or could have been responsible for fluid collection that needed to be drained.

How long do staph infections typically take to heal?

An infected elbow joint with staph could have a complicated treatment course. Usual treatment consists of drainage of the infected synovial fluid and administration of the appropriate antimicrobials as well as immobilization of the joint. Needle arthrocentesis is utilized to drain the infected joint. In some cases when infection fails to improve with medical treatment, surgical debridement is required.

Are athletes especially prone to getting staph infections?

Athletes are not particularly more prone to getting staph infections. But since there is close skin contact it is imperative that once a staph skin infection is diagnosed proper precautions are taken.

What does recovery from a staph infection entail?

Recovery from a staph infection is dependent on the severity of the infection and place of infection. MRSA or methicillin-resistant staph auras is more resistant to antibiotics and can have a more difficult treatment course.

It is difficult to assess what kind of recovery Blake’s elbow will have without having more detail on the scope of his infection. In general the earlier the infection is diagnosed and treated the better the prognosis and recovery.