The Big Ten plans to begin the 2020 season on October 23.
The conference overturned an initial decision to delay football season until spring 2021, which followed the lead of the Ivy League, Pac-12 and several other conferences who cited concerns related to health and safety tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
But with daily antigen testing available to all “student-athletes, coaches, trainers and other individuals that are on the field for all practices and games” the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors decided football can be played.
A full conference game schedule is expected to be established by the end of next week. The Big Ten had planned in August to play only conference games.
Among the underlined Big Ten guidelines: any positive COVID-19 test brings a mandatory 21-day quarantine, per the league.
“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 University head team physician and co-chair of the Return to Competition Task Force medical subcommittee.
“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.”
The return to play Oct. 23-24 was unanimously approved. Safeguards are being adopted, the conference said Wednesday, to identify and treat myocarditis — swelling of the heart connected in some studies to COVID-19. The concern was elevated by Penn State’s medical staff last month. The league did not specifically address concerns about long-term lung damage associated with the coronavirus in some cases.
“All COVID-19 positive student-athletes will have to undergo comprehensive cardiac testing to include labs and biomarkers, ECG, Echocardiogram and a Cardiac MRI,” the Big Ten said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
The council laid out additional stipulations and guidelines including:
–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
–Each institution must identify a Chief Infection Officer to oversee collection and reporting of data to the conference