Big Ten announces COVID-19 testing plan for close contact sports

COLUMBUS, OH - AUGUST 31: A detailed view of a B1G ten logo is seen during game action between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Florida Atlantic Owls on August 31, 2019, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, OH. (Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Im (Getty Images)

The Big Ten Conference announced a partnership with two medical groups that will execute the COVID-19 testing plan needed for the return of close contact sports competition.

All student-athletes and staff involved in the close contact sports will be tested before every practice and game. According to a press release, Quidel Corporation will manufacture the SOFIA 2 SARS rapid antigen test, which is approved by the FDA, while Biodesix Inc., will oversee the onsite testing.

“The partnership with Biodesix and Quidel is an important step toward achieving our mission of keeping our student-athletes, and the communities that support them, healthy and safe,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in a statement. “The data we are scheduled to collect, and the research component of this partnership, will provide major contributions to all 14 Big Ten institutions as they study COVID-19 and attempt to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) among wider communities.” 

The testing for the return to competition started on Wednesday. This week, staff from Biodesix will be at each of the 14 Big Ten schools. Biodesix and a contractor, Maxim Healthcare Staffing Services Inc., will complete the day-to-day tests.

If there is presumed positive test, the athlete or staff member will be referred to the university's health staff for a confirmation test. The university's chief infection officer will report the confirmed positive cases to the medical subcommittee of the Big Ten Conference Return to Competition Task Force. Officials will use the team's positivity rates to determine whether to alter/postpone practice or competition. Biodesix will also complete testing on a percentage of anonymous samples with negative results to ensure the tests are getting accurate results.

Student-athletes who test positive will complete cardiac testing and must receive clearance from a university designated cardiologist before returning to compete. The earliest a student-athlete can return to competition is 21 days after a confirmed positive diagnosis.

After originally cancelling the fall football season, the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors voted for the football season to resume the weekend of October 23-24.