Jaguars among NFL teams using silver to fight COVID-19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There are relatively small gray and purple cartridges attached to the wall of the laundry area in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ equipment room. If you aren’t looking for them, you’d probably never notice them.

Even if you did look, you’d have no idea that those cartridges contain another piece of the Jaguars’ ongoing battle against the coronavirus.

Each cartridge contains a bag of silver ions called SilvaClean, a small dose of which is dispensed during the laundry’s rinse cycle, designed to bond with fabrics to kill pathogens such as MRSA, staph and -- the company that manufactures it says -- SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19.

“It's really all about setting a new cleanliness standard, especially giving the situation that we are in,” said Priya Balachandran, the chief operations officer of Applied Silver, the company behind SilvaClean. “Everyone is paying close attention to hygiene and cleanliness like never before.

“… Our product, when you combine that with all of the other protocols, it gives people the validity to set the new standard for cleanliness.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA and staph have long been issues in athletic facilities, gyms, locker rooms and health clubs because people share equipment and have skin-to-skin contact. Staph, a bacteria found on skin, can cause serious skin infections, and if it gets into the blood, it can lead to sepsis or death, per the CDC.

Using ionic silver compounds to kill germs and pathogens such as MRSA and staph has already become widespread in the healthcare and hospitality industry, and it is beginning to work its way into the sports world. The Jaguars are one of six NFL teams using the SilvaClean system. San Francisco, Dallas and New Orleans are among the others. (Two other NFL teams did not give Applied Silver permission to release their names.) In addition, Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo and North Carolina State are among the colleges using the SilvaClean system.

The University of South Alabama’s Laboratory of Infectious Diseases studied the product's effectiveness by treating virus samples with different concentrations of the product as well as a control solution, and LID director Dr. Jonathan Rayner said SilvaClean was found to have effectively inactivated more than 99.9% SARS-CoV-2 during the tested incubation period.

An additional benefit is that whatever it treats continuously kills the pathogens. The textiles and fabrics are not recontaminated once they’re used, and they provide ongoing protection, Balachandran said. An infection won’t spread, for example, if one player touches another player’s T-shirt or gloves, even if the first player is sick, Balachandran said.

“If someone were to touch a towel and they have germs on their skin, those germs can get on the towel, and now the SilvaClean-treated towel continuously kills it immediately,” Balachandran said. “You don’t have to spray something on your textiles all the time. It is already there, it is gentle, it is safe for the skin, and no allergic reactions.”

The Jaguars began using the system on Sept. 7, the Monday after roster cutdown. The Jaguars have a cartridge connected to each of their three 55-pound industrial washers, two 75-pound industrial washers and one high-efficiency household washer. Each cartridge contains a bag that has enough product for 200,000 pounds of laundry.

Jaguars equipment manager Jimmy Luck said he anticipates changing each bag once this season.

“They’re pretty much going from the time we get here until the time we leave,” Luck said. “There’s always somebody in the building making laundry. Being part of the equipment staff, we’re always washing somebody’s stuff.”

Luck learned of the SilvaClean system through his contacts with New Orleans Saints equipment manager John Baumgartner and Jim Lake, a former longtime NFL equipment manager with the Los Angeles Rams who is now the head of customer integration and success for Applied Silver. Luck also knows Daniel Fells, a strategic sports adviser for Applied Silver, from their time with the Atlanta Falcons.

“I thought, ‘If those guys are involved, let me look into this a little bit,’” Luck said.

One of the things Luck liked about the system is that it’s low-maintenance. Each unit is monitored remotely by the company using a cloud-based system, so other than clearing some space for the installation, Luck and his staff don’t have to do anything.

“Just walk in, make sure the light’s green, and that’s really about it,” he said. “So that’s been something that’s been really good for us. It’s doing some things, and we don’t have to do anything, which makes it nice.”

It’s another piece of the Jaguars’ battle to keep COVID-19 at bay, along with the additional sanitizing of the equipment and football facility. Per Scott Trulock, the Jaguars’ director of player health and performance and the team’s infection control officer, three janitorial companies sanitize the facility daily and electrostatically spray Clorox 360 and cover more than 115,000 square feet. The measures seem to be working.

As of Monday, the Jaguars haven’t had a player placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list since running back Ryquell Armstead on Sept. 5.

Former NFL player Ian Williams used silver for several years before hooking up with Applied Silver as an ambassador. His career ended because of multiple bacterial infections after surgeries to fix a fractured left ankle, and he doesn’t want anyone else to go through what he did. Williams broke his ankle in 2013 while playing defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. He fought off one infection, but it returned again in 2016, and he had to have another surgery.

“Things now are well,” he said. “... I want people to understand that you have to pay attention to things that you can’t see. You have to wash your hands, take care of your laundry and clean things now.”