The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 could make their final up-or-down calls on the fall football season today and, after a long summer of outbreaks, threatened boycotts and a general lack of consensus, a late-breaking issue could end up being what gets the season canceled.
Conference commissioners and university presidents have been briefed on the possibility of myocarditis -- a virus that weakens the heart and can lead to serious, long-lasting issues and even death. While it's not widespread, myocarditis can affect even asymptomatic individuals diagnosed with COVID-19.
“That’s what has been the final straw,” a team doctor told Sports Illustrated. “The commissioners are finally figuring it all out. The commissioners are going, ‘Oh my gosh!’ And the doctors are like, ‘Yeah...’”
The University of Utah's Dave Petron shared with Pac-12 leadership his recommendation:
“At this point, we don’t recommend any contact practices,” Petron said on ESPN Radio in Utah on Monday. "What would be required to really bring football forward is you would have to make sure it is controlled within the school and the community at large. You’ll need access to a complete cardiac evaluation, I know you’re aware cardiac issues are really coming to a forefront. Each school needs at least needs to be able to test something called troponin, which is a breakdown product of the heart, be able to do an EKG, an echo(cardiogram) and an MRI of the heart.”
And while it may seem that is the prevailing medical view at this time, it is not the only view.
“We believe we can mitigate it down to a level that makes everyone safe,” Duke infectious disease expert and ACC medical advisory chairman Dr. Cameron Wolfe told Sports Business Daily. “Can we safely have two teams meet on the field? I would say yes. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure. But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus.”
And as Greg Sankey said on the Dan Patrick show earlier today:
“Our medical advisory group has said, yes, we can continue to go forward. Were that to change, certainly that would be a stopping point but the indicators are we can, right now, do what we’re doing in a healthy way and we’re going to continue to consider that central issue — health — as we move forward, we hope towards competition with no assurances that that will take place.”
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said something similar over the weekend.
Now, it's possible those opinions change if and when the Pac-12 group publishes its findings. It's also possible this isn't an issue of "correct" vs. "incorrect." The group advising schools to pause athletics aren't certain that COVID-19-induced myocarditis is a serious threat to a large-enough number of college athletes, they just believe it's too soon to say for sure one way or the other.
Disagreement is normal, even healthy, in the medical community, especially in regards to a phenomenon as new as COVID-19 and all its side effects. We just don't usually see it play out in real time in the public sphere with an entire college football season hanging in the balance.
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.