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Badgers' Chief Infection Officer Talks Big Ten Season

Andy Berg

Eyeing a return to football, the Wisconsin Badgers’ chief infection officer says there are parts of the upcoming season that could pose challenges.

University of Wisconsin assistant athletic director for sports medicine Michael Moll told the Wisconsin State Journal that organizing daily rapid testing for the team’s entire travel party could be tough.

Speaking at the UW Athletic Board’s Equity, Diversity and Student-Welfare Committee, Moll said that daily testing should give a team a reasonable idea whether everyone is negative on a given day.

However, he added that many difficulties will arise if someone tests positive.

"There will be plans in place for meeting those needs," Moll said. "There are a number of challenges and that's definitely one of them."

As part of his roll, Moll will serve as UW’s chief infection officer, a position that’s required in the Big Ten’s return to play protocols.

 

The UW has been using Exact Sciences Corp. to perform COVID-19 testing. Moll said the local company allows for quick access to results, noting that he sometimes gets phone calls in the middle of the night when a player or staff member tests positive.

Moll said the UW’s efforts to create a safe training environment over the summer were largely effective.

"Largely over the summer, I don't believe, at least with our experience, we haven't seen a great deal of transmission take place in the athletic environments, or any for that matter that we can necessarily document," Moll said. "However, I think there's still a large unknown and very little data out there about what transmission within athletics is, largely because we haven't gone that far to figure it out. The large amount of transmission that we have seen has been in living situations, in situations outside of athletics."

Student-athletes who have tested positive have not shown significant symptoms.

"There's not a lot of significant symptoms with our student-athletes currently, which is good," he said. "However, that's certainly not the experience everywhere. And we have had some student-athletes that have some prolonged issues coming back to return to activity. So it's definitely not a standard. It's a very individualized process."

As it stands, the Big Ten will require a minimum 21-day absence for any positive test.

"I think in some respects that's a very reasonable timeline," Moll said. "There will be some athletes that potentially will be ready to go before that and will be wanting to do more before that. There will be some that that is a very appropriate timeline. And there will be others that may take longer to get back than that 21-day time frame."

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