Will COVID Sideline the College Football Season?

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY August 18, 2020 (HealthDay News) – The odds are not good for college football conferences that have decided to move forward with their fall season despite the coronavirus pandemic, experts say.

The Big 10 and PAC 12 have decided not to play sports in the fall, but the SEC, Big 12 and ACC say they will continue with college football while keeping players safe from the coronavirus.

“I predict, because we’ve seen it before in these sports that have been very diligent, that there will be transmission and they will have to stop their games,” said Dr. Colleen Kraft, an NCAA medical adviser. and a teacher. of infectious diseases with Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. She was one of several experts who recently briefed the media on college sports boating during the pandemic.

Ultimately, the national college football debate is unfolding because the United States has failed to effectively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. Brian Hainline, senior vice president and physician- chief of the NCAA.

“When we started talking about returning to sport in April, we thought there would be a continued downward trajectory of new infections and deaths from COVID-19, that there would be a national surveillance system, national testing and a search for national contacts that would allow us to really navigate this pandemic, ”Hainline said. “It didn’t happen and it’s very difficult to make decisions as the fall sport approaches.”

About 1% to 2% of NCAA athletes have already tested positive for COVID-19, Hainline noted.

Despite this, and despite the increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths, some conferences have decided to “dive in and see what happens,” Kraft said.

Colleges are taking steps to protect players, including having them practice in small units and experimenting with innovations such as internal masks that are part of the football helmet, Hainline said.

The problem is, no matter how stringent your college’s COVID-19 policies are, your players will be sharing the pitch with another team at the time of the game, Hainline said.


“The biggest risk in football is when you have a team competing against another team and you have to be sure that both teams have followed very high standards so you are not taking a team that has been a relatively bubble. safe and all of a sudden, expose it to another who isn’t, ”Hainline said.

Campus a hotbed for the spread of COVID

Additionally, no matter how hard school officials try to make the sport an infection-free environment, players will still be spending a lot of time off the pitch in situations where they are faced with an infection that they can then. pass it on to their teammates, said Dr Carlos del Rio. , NCAA Health Advisor and Executive Associate Dean of Emory University School of Medicine.

“We can do all the planning we want to have safe sports, but what’s going on outside of sport is really where the problem is,” del Rio said. “It’s the feast of fellowship. These are the other things that can happen.”

This month we have already produced a number of examples of college students poking fun at COVID-19.

University of Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne tweeted on Sunday a photo showing dozens of tight-knit people, most of them without masks, waiting to enter a popular bar.

“Who wants college sports this fall? Obviously not these people !!” said Byrne, whose team is in the SEC.

The University of Louisville, a member of the ACC, has expelled three football players from its team and suspended three others after hosting a COVID-19 party, according to reports. The men’s and women’s soccer teams, the field hockey team and the volleyball team have had to cancel their practices after 29 cases of COVID were reported.

Meanwhile, an entire Oklahoma State University sorority house is in quarantine and isolation after 23 Pi Beta Phi members tested positive for COVID.

“I would encourage schools to give these athletes meaningful education on how to minimize their risk of getting infected,” del Rio said. “Their risk of getting infected will be in the community, as there is so much transmission in the community.”

Athletes infected with COVID-19 face serious and potentially career-threatening illness, said Kraft and del Rio.


For example, they are at an increased risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart caused by a viral infection that can cause dangerous irregular heart rhythms.

“You absolutely cannot train when you have viral syndrome because there is a risk of myocarditis. It has been around for a long time,” del Rio said.

Some warning guidelines

The NCAA has established a five-point mandate that schools must end their athletic programs, Hainline said.

These include:

  • A lack of ability to isolate positive cases or quarantine high-risk COVID-19 cases on campus.
  • Insufficient capacity to test for COVID.
  • Campus-wide or community-wide COVID rates deemed dangerous by local public health officials.
  • Inability to contact the trace and prevent epidemics.
  • A lack of capacity at local hospitals to deal with an increase in COVID cases.

“If the local [hospital] the infrastructure of a particular school is really imploding and can’t accept new cases, you can’t go ahead with fall sports, ”Hainline said.

Del Rio noted that in Georgia, 98% of hospital beds and 97% of ICUs are now filled.

“My advice is that we are holding back and controlling this virus,” del Rio said. “It would be my number one priority as a nation.”

Colleges moving forward with fall football have another tough decision – what to do with the fans.

Schools like Texas A&M University and Florida State University have announced that football attendance will likely be limited to a quarter to half of their stadium capacity, Bloomberg News reported.

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SOURCES: Colleen Kraft, MD, professor, infectious diseases, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta; Brian Hainline, MD, senior vice president and medical director, NCAA; Carlos del Rio, MD, executive associate dean, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta; media information, Infectious Disease Society of America / NCAA; Aug 13, 2020

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