sick athlete in bed
Illustration by Amelia Madarang

Protocols sweep NWC to diminish raging virus

The COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed college communities around the nation. Despite the unwavering pandemic, many conferences within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) have pushed forward with their Spring 2021 seasons, making collegiate athletes, coaches and athletic staff responsible for the health of the team. With the high number of cases across the United States, the inevitability of a player or member of the athletic staff contracting the virus is high.

Lewis & Clark has been a role model of sorts among college campuses in combating the coronavirus thus far. According to Jeremy Loew, the head athletic trainer at LC, only 25 student athletes have been diagnosed with the virus since April 2020, most of whom contracted it off-campus. In comparison, a New York Times article found over 6,600 cases of the virus among Division I football players and people who work in their athletic departments in the Fall 2020 season alone.

The app SWAY, a mobile symptom tracking test, is cemented in the daily routine of student athletes at LC. The NCAA and Northwest Conference (NWC) have mandated all colleges to have a symptom self-screening test daily before they access any athletic facilities on campus. Around half of the NWC has chosen SWAY for their self-screening platform.

Athletes are asked eight questions to determine whether or not they are experiencing any of the common coronavirus symptoms. 

“If a student indicates they have symptoms, somebody from the athletic training staff is going to make contact with them and try to assess if what’s going on is normal or abnormal for them,” Loew said.

Moreover, if a student has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, they will be treated as any other student on the LC campus and put into isolation for a minimum of 10 days. 

Off-campus students isolating reside in their homes while on-campus students are relocated to Hartzfeld Hall. 

In order to be released from isolation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires “10 days since isolation first appeared, at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving.” 

Additionally, the CDC has stated that there should be no exercise within that time frame. Once a student athlete has completed isolation, they must meet with the team doctor for an in-person evaluation and have an electrocardiogram done by the health center to ensure their heart is appropriately functioning. 

Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, has become a severe issue among athletes that have withstood the virus. A study done at The Ohio State University showed that 15% of collegiate athletes with COVID-19 had evidence of myocarditis. Therefore, proper recovery is imperative for the safety of athletes. 

The LC athletic training staff has set up an eight to 10 day return to athletics programs for student athletes to get healthy once again. The return process entails a gradual increase of workout intensity as time goes on. If a student were to be struggling significantly and having shortness of breath within the first few days of the program, the staff would then halt the training to order blood work and continue to do more tests like an echocardiogram. 

“We start the athletes keeping it at about 70 percent of their max heart rate with limited activity for up to 15 minutes for two to three days,” Loew said. “Gradually, it increases to about 80 percent of their heart rate for half an hour and goes from there.” 

As the Spring 2021 season approaches quickly, the worry of close contact between schools is daunting. All summer, the athletic staff has worked tirelessly to discover ways to combat the spread of the virus and there has been a great deal of coherence between schools in the NWC to guarantee the safety of student athletes. In compliance with the new set of conference-wide guidelines, schools must fill out an attestation form that their athletes are virus-free. 

“We are required to attest to the health of our team before they leave our campus,” Loew said.  

The diligence of every school to abide by the protocols is crucial for a well-functioning and complete season. 

The coaches, athletic staff and athletes at LC have taken great responsibility to ensure the health and safety of not only the athletic community, but the LC community at large. 

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