New NCAA Protocols as Data Moves in 'Wrong Direction'

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NCAA president Mark Emmert says the nation needs to get a “much better handle” on the COVID-19 pandemic if college sports are going to be played this fall.

While he said the coronavirus data is moving in the wrong direction, the NCAA released a new set of protocols Thursday in an attempt to turn the tide. The NCAA Sport Science Institute’s Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition provides “updated recommendations about the protection of athletes and prevention of community spread of COVID-19.

“The guidelines are designed to inform schools in responding appropriately based on their specific circumstances and in the best interest of returning college athletes’ health and well-being.”

The recommendations, which build on previous NCAA guidelines, include:

  • Undergoing daily self-health checks before athletes and staff enter facilities.
  • Isolating asymptomatic carriers for 10 days.
  • Isolating symptomatic carriers for at least 10 days from when symptoms first appeared and at least 72 hours after recovery.
  • Quarantining individuals with high-risk exposure for 14 days.
  • Using appropriate face coverings and social distancing during practice, gatherings and competition.
  • Implementing testing strategies for all athletics activities.
  • Conducting testing and receiving results within 72 hours of competition in high-risk sports, and member schools adhering to their community’s public health standards.

The NCAA also said that Polymerase Chain Reaction testing is preferred, but others will be considered. Basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, wrestling, volleyball, rugby, squash and water polo have been identified as high-risk sports.

All college sports, including some winter championships and all spring seasons, have been shut down since mid-March. Schools have been conducting their own testing since voluntary workouts were allowed to resume in June.

“Any recommendation on a pathway toward a safe return to sport will depend on the national trajectory of COVID-19 spread,” NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said in the organization’s press release. “The idea of sport resocialization is predicated on a scenario of reduced or flattened infection rates.”

Related content: Big Ten Announces Conference-Only Plan for Fall Sports

The NCAA has been relatively quiet as member conferences and schools have started to cancel and postpone events for the fall. However, Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reported that Emmert told the NCAA Council that, if the decision had to be made today, fall sports championships would likely be canceled.

“When we made the extremely difficult decision to cancel last spring’s championships it was because there was simply no way to conduct them safely,” Emmert said in the NCAA’s release. “This document lays out the advice of health care professionals as to how to resume college sports if we can achieve an environment where COVID-19 rates are manageable. Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”

The NCAA’s release said it looked to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when developing the recommendations, while the document was a collaboration of the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine COVID-19 Working Group, Autonomy-5 Medical Advisory Group, National Medical Association, and the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports Prevention and Performance Subcommittee.

Related content: NJCAA Expected to Move to Spring Football Season

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