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Big 10 football to resume amid maze of protocols, testing

The Brillion News

The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (Council) adopted significant medical protocols including daily antigen testing, enhanced cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice/competition. With that, the Council voted unanimously to resume the football season starting the weekend of October 23-24, 2020.

The return of sports in the Big 10 will include a maze of testing and a complicated "color-coded" system of actions and reactions.

The decision was based on information presented by the Big Ten Return to Competition Task Force, a working group that was established by the Council and Commissioner Kevin Warren to ensure a collaborative and transparent process.

The task force was chairs by University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Director Barry Alvarez.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the conference postponed the fall season in August.

"Since that time, many people have worked hard to answer the questions and concerns that resulted in postponement," she said.

Alvarez went beyond the health issues several weeks ago and said the loss of football revenues threatened the survival of the university's athletic program.

The Big Ten will require student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games to undergo daily antigen testing. Test results must be completed and recorded prior to each practice or game. Student-athletes who test positive for the coronavirus through point of contact (POC) daily testing would require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to confirm the result of the POC test.

The conference will pay for all of the testing for athletes in all Big 10 sports.

"There are still many details to be worked out, bit i will be happy to see the Badgers return to competition in 2020," Blank said.

All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI. Following cardiac evaluation, student-athletes must receive clearance from a cardiologist designated by the university for the primary purpose of cardiac clearance for COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The earliest a student-athlete can return to game competition is 21 days following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis.

In addition to the medical protocols approved, the 14 Big Ten institutions will establish a cardiac registry in an effort to examine the effects on COVID-19 positive student-athletes. The registry and associated data will attempt to answer many of the unknowns regarding the cardiac manifestations in COVID-19 positive elite athletes.

The Big Ten Conference will use data provided by each Chief Infection Officer (CInO) to make decisions about the continuation of practice and competition, as determined by team positivity rate and population positivity rate, based on a seven-day rolling average:

  • Team positivity rate (number of positive tests divided by total number of tests administered):

    • Green 0-2%

    • Orange 2-5%

    • Red >5%

Population positivity rate (number of positive individuals divided by total population at risk):

  • Green 0-3.5%

  • Orange 3.5-7.5%

  • Red >7.5%

Decisions to alter or halt practice and competition will be based on the following scenarios:

  • Green/Green and Green/Orange: Team continues with normal practice and competition.

  • Orange/Orange and Orange/Red: Team must proceed with caution and enhance COVID-19 prevention (alter practice and meeting schedule, consider viability of continuing with scheduled competition).

  • Red/Red: Team must stop regular practice and competition for a minimum of seven days and reassess metrics until improved.

The daily testing will begin by September 30, 2020. 

Eventually all Big Ten sports will require testing protocols before they can resume competition. Updates regarding fall sports other than football, as well as winter sports that begin in the fall including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and wrestling, will be announced shortly, the conference said.


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