While the decision of whether or not to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic is being left up to each conference, the NCAA's chief medical advisors offered an alarming quote about the risks of playing sports this fall.
The Big Ten and Pac 12 became the first Power 5 conferences to suspend fall sports, with both leagues hoping football can return next spring. Both conferences cited significant concerns from their medical advisors about the risks of playing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While they won’t take the field this season, other Power 5 conferences are moving forward. The Big 12, SEC and ACC announced this week that they will play football this season and have received approval from their medical personnel.
In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, several of the NCAA’s chief medical officers opened up about the risks of student-athletes playing during a national health crisis.
At the very least, they sound far more concerned about the risks than doctors representing some of the NCAA’s top athletic conferences.
Dr. Carlos Del Rio, one of the NCAA's chief medical advisors, on whether he would go forward with fall sports: "We have a serious problem. I feel like the Titanic: we have hit the iceberg and we’re trying to make decisions of when the band should play."— Laine Higgins (@lainehiggins17) August 13, 2020
It would mean one thing if Dr. Carlos Del Rio compared the ongoing discussions to the chaos after the Titanic hit the iceberg. However, his comments better indicate that discussions about having student-athletes play this fall are missing the scope of the problem entirely.
Many college football stars have come forward with a “#WeWantToPlay” campaign on social media, encouraging conference officials to let athletes take the field this fall.
But they likely don’t have access to the information about COVID-19 and the potential risks of exposure that the NCAA’s medical advisors do.
NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline says the NCAA is aware of "about 12 cases" of myocarditis among college athletes so far https://t.co/yl2Kcy3dPx— Laine Higgins (@lainehiggins17) August 13, 2020
We’ve already heard stories from players like Indiana Hoosiers offensive lineman Brady Feeney and LSU Tigers linebacker Travez Moore about the alarming health complications COVID-19 can cause, even for young athletes.
If the NCAA is already seeing a dozen players now have myocarditis, a rare heart condition typically caused by a viral infection, fall sports are in serious jeopardy. Even just one athlete having their life permanently impacted by this issue would forever damage the NCAA and cast a dark cloud over football that wouldn’t be forgotten.
While this will ultimately still be left up to individual conferences, it’s clear the dangers of playing football this year are perhaps greater than the ACC, SEC and Big 12 are indicating.