The NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer is still speaking out about the slim chances of a safe fall sports season. Three days ago, Dr. Brian Hainline held a conference call with a group of fellow doctors and reporters to discuss COVID-19 and how it relates to collegiate sports. At one point, a Titanic analogy was even used. Saturday night, Hainline – a clinical professor of neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine and New York University School of Medicine, in addition to his duties with the NCAA – doubled down on his professional opinion, saying “the pathway to play sports is so exceedingly narrow right now. Everything would have to line up perfectly.”
A major part of his argument is centered around testing and a school’s ability to consistently and accurately administer coronavirus tests to so many athletes and other students.
“Right now, if testing in the U.S. stays the way it is, there’s no way we can go forward with sports,” Hainline said.
Hainline says the greater risk is regular students resocializing on campuses. Says that could be "the downfall" if schools can't handle that.
— Nicole Auerbach ? (@NicoleAuerbach) August 16, 2020
Later, he added the country is “not in a place today where we could safely play sports.”
His remarks on CNN (which aired Saturday after midnight) seem to serve as a warning toward the conferences who have not yet canceled their fall sports – including the SEC, ACC and Big 12. However, his comments did seem to suggest that if the ability to administer tests is improved, there’s a better chance of a safe season.
NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline on CNN: "The pathway to play sports is so exceedingly narrow right now. Everything would have to line up perfectly."
— Chris Vannini ? (@ChrisVannini) August 16, 2020
Enter: the NBA .
News broke Saturday the FDA has approved a COVID-19 saliva test, which was developed at Yale in partnership with the NBA and the league’s Players’ Association. The test (“SalivaDirect”) is non-invasive and requires just a small sample, reducing risks for the healthcare workers collecting the samples.
Yale administered the saliva test to a group that included NBA players and staff in the lead-up to the league’s return to play inside the bubble and compared results to the nasal swab tests the same group also took. The results “almost universally matched,” according to published research that has not yet been peer-reviewed.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) August 15, 2020
Depending on the proximity of the lab, consumers could get results back within a few hours – definitely within 24 hours. Anne Wyllie, an assistant professor and associate research scientist at Yale School of Public Health, said she expects labs to charge about $10 for the test. ESPN is reporting an expected $15 to $20 price tag for consumers, adding that the NBA, Yale and the players’ association do not intend to take royalties from any use of the testing method. Sources also told the worldwide leader that the NBA and its union contributed more than $500,000 combined to fund the Yale work.
A quicker, cheaper, less-invasive test would certainly help fight the pandemic nationwide. In this context, it’s specifically good news for sports, too. Will it be enough to keep the SEC on track to play, despite the consistently-dreary outlook from the NCAA’s chief medical officer? Only time will tell.