The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the whole world. Sports leagues shut down in March 2020 across the U.S. Since then, fans have only been able to attend games with limited capacity. All across the world, teams have taken extra precautions in order to get back to playing. The National Basketball Association (NBA) had the first reported COVID-19 case when Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert tested positive March 11, just before the Utah Jazz faced the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That was the beginning of the suspension of sports, which lasted for four months. This led to collegiate sports closing down in some conferences, and eventually led to players fighting to play before it was too late. Eventually sporting events came back and players are now in a different kind of season. Athletes are now playing but following COVID-19 protocols in order to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
The rules and regulations for teams each year is different, especially for North Dakota State University athletics. Here is what NDSU Assistant Athletic Director Ryan Perreault had to say about COVID-19 protocols for this season:
“NDSU is following NCAA guidelines in all sports with the exception of wrestling, which the Big 12 Conference has put in additional measures beyond the NCAA minimum. Anybody designated as Tier I is subject to regular testing. Tier I includes all of the student athletes and staff who are on the bench or sideline. The testing varies per sport,” Perreault said.
Sports are either high risk or low risk. For example, golf, cross country and outdoor track are considered low risk sports because they are individual-based. The potential exposure to COVID-19 would not likely happen on the golf course or while running when everyone is socially distanced.
Basketball and volleyball teams are playing a different type of schedule this season. They are playing against one opponent per weekend instead of two.
“If there were multiple opponents, such as during our non-conference schedule earlier this winter, then the requirement would be three antigen tests per week,” Perreault said.
Wrestling teams are doing COVID-19 tests three times a week under the Big 12 rules while football players are required to do one PCR test at least 72 hours before game time. Basketball, volleyball, wrestling and football are all considered high risk sports. All of these sports, except volleyball, require a large amount of physical contact with the opponent. Basketball, football and wrestling require a lot of physical contact throughout games and matches, which is why the sports are considered high risk.
Intermediate risk sports are baseball, soccer and indoor track and field. These are team sports that have some aspect of social distancing associated with them. NDSU is doing surveillance tests (which monitor case similarities) for 25–50 percent of student athletes every two weeks.
At the junior collegiate level, the protocols are much more lenient when it comes to having some sort of mandate in place for the upcoming season. North Dakota State College of Science Athletic Director/Head Basketball Coach Stu Engen said things for the players may be a little different when it comes to what they are and aren’t allowed to do.
“We’re limiting shootarounds at other sites,” Engen said about one of the changes for the players this season.
NDSCS Student Information Director/Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Jordan Burton said players are only tested when they are experiencing symptoms. Engen said the training staff will be taking temperatures of staff and players on the opposing team when they arrive at the home arena/facility. Student-athletes at NDSCS are tested at least every other week, regardless of the sport.
The two levels of collegiate action have made getting back to play a priority with different circumstances. One level is taking just enough precaution to start a season and to eventually complete a season.
Another institution with more funding is getting more testing for athletes, and different types of testing for different sports.