Several Detroit Lions Players Catch Flu

While the NFL playoffs have not yet arrived, the influenza virus has already had a chance to make history: By infecting members of the Detroit Lions, it could help lead to the first winless team in a 16-game season in league history.

In an interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols before the team's game against the New Orleans Saints last weekend, Lions quarterback Dan Orlovksy revealed that he and several other members of the team are battling the flu.

The Saints defeated the Lions 42-7. Orlovsky threw two interceptions before being pulled in the fourth quarter for rookie backup Drew Stanton. The Lions will face the Green Bay Packers in their final game of the season Sunday.

As they battle the illness, the Lions join a group of players who had better fortunes in the season before they had to fight the flu. In the course of playoff games, Olympic championships, and other critical matchups, athletes in a variety of sports have had to fend off the virus while dealing with opponentsl.

The virus has changed the course of championships, either in the form of missed opportunities or plays made even more memorable for what players overcame.

"Fans are not forgiving of athletes for being human," said Dr. Rebecca Jaffe, a family and sports medicine physician in Wilmington, Del., speaking of her own experiences with New York and Philadelphia-area fans.

"They shouldn't put their overall health at risk to do something that will limit or compromise their well-being."

So some athletes make it out to play, while others have their doctors recommend staying home.

"It depends on the severity of it," said Dr. Scott E. Nelson, a family physician in Cleveland, Miss. "Milder cases of the flu, we've seen all sorts of athletes in different sports make it happen."

How well athletes respond may also depend on whether they've had flu before.

"If you get the true flu, you feel like you've been hit by a truck, so you're not likely to get up and exercise," said Jaffe.

"[An athlete] might have been exposed to the flu previously, and therefore had some antibodies. He may have had a milder case and been able to rise above it," she said.

Athletes who sit out the game may decide they won't be in top form.

"I think a fan's sympathy, at least from me, as both a fan and physician [is that] if someone's got the flu and they don't want to play, they're doing it because they don't want to hurt the team," said Nelson.

That may be something to keep in mind the next time you don't feel you can make it in to help your own team at the office.

Get Your Questions Answered at the OnCall+ Cold & Flu Center

But in the meantime, here are some athletes who came down with the flu -- and how that affected their job performance.

Michael Jordan: 1998 NBA Finals

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won the title six times in eight years from 1991 to 1998, missing out only in the two seasons Jordan missed because of his brief retirement to play baseball.

No one was able to stop them -- apparently not even the flu.

With the Bulls leading the Utah Jazz three games to one in 1998, Jordan came down with the flu. But it wasn't enough to keep him off the court.

In the last two games of the series, Jordan played despite his illness.

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