Big Ten football is coming back. The conference announced on Wednesday that they’ve adopted “significant medical protocols,” and will return to play the weekend of October 23-24.
So what are these new medical protocols that will allow Big Ten athletes to play?
To start, anyone who takes the field for games or practices-- every student-athlete, coach, or staff member-- will need to undergo daily COVID-19 testing. If anyone tests positive, they will take another, different test to confirm the results.
Then, any student-athlete who does test positive will have to wait a minimum of 21 days, and undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to ensure that their body is fit to play. The Big Ten will also send all of this cardiac data to newly established registries, so that they can study the effects of COVID-19 as the student-athletes recover.
“Everyone associated with the Big Ten should be very proud of the groundbreaking steps that are now being taken to better protect the health and safety of the student-athletes and surrounding communities,” said Dr. Jim Borchers, Ohio State’s Head Team Physician. “The data we are going to collect from testing and the cardiac registry will provide major contributions for all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of the disease among wider communities.”
There are thresholds to shutting football back down again as well. The Conference will use a seven-day rolling average of positivity rates to determine whether or not practices and games can continue for a school.
Here’s the criteria the Big Ten shared:
- 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%
Here’s how the stoplight system of green, orange, red will be deployed:
Two greens, or one green and one orange: teams are good to go.
Two oranges, or one orange and one red: teams must proceed with caution, or “enhance COVID-19 prevention” by altering practice and meeting schedules. Teams must also consider whether it’s viable continuing with their games as scheduled.
Two reds: The team must shut down regular practice and games for a minimum of seven days, then must assess when it’s safe to come back.
Testing will begin Sept. 30.