Sport Science Institute

Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport

The NCAA has released the following guidance documents related to the resocialization of college sports in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • “Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport” (5/1/20)
  • “Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition” (7/14/20) 
  • “Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Action Plan Considerations” (5/28/20) 

Each of the above publications was intended to supplement and update the prior publications to reflect most recent emerging data and information available at the time of release. The NCAA has also published  and continues to supplement an FAQ document that contains questions/answers pertaining to the publications.  As the resocialization publications have been updated, they have rendered certain of the FAQ content outdated. Those outdated portions of the FAQ have been removed from the published version and have been archived to this document solely for purposes of historical reference. This content is no longer consistent with the Association’s published position and should not be relied upon as guidance.

Questions can be directed to the NCAA Sport Science Institute at ssi@ncaa.org.

The United States is currently using physical distancing and stay-at-home guidelines as the primary means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 — a highly contagious and virulent disease, especially for the elderly and for individuals with preexisting pulmonary and cardiovascular disease. COVID-19 has penetrated all 50 states, with variable rates of community infection, hospitalization and death. Because of the widespread nature of this disease presently, containment strategies such as testing, identification and isolation are neither practical nor efficacious.

Sport, as a microcosm of society, is similarly using physical distancing and stay-at-home policies as the primary means of preventing COVID-19 disease spread. Group practice and all sport competition have ceased.

Once COVID-19 infection rates diminish for at least two weeks, resocialization of society and sport may be possible. Importantly, there will not be a single day of reemerging into society as normal. Rather, resocialization must be rolled out in a stepwise manner that helps ensure sustained low infection spread coupled with the ability to rapidly diagnose and isolate new cases. Bear in mind that upward spikes in infection spread may cause resocialization efforts to halt or even retreat until infection spikes lower again.

Collegiate sports differ from professional sports because all collegiate athletes are first and foremost students. Thus, resocialization of collegiate sport must be grounded in resocialization of college campuses. As with society at large, such resocialization must be measured, nimble and based on sound science. In all instances, college athletics must operate with approval of school leadership, and the school must be operating in accordance with local and state public officials regarding a return to campus, return to practice and return to competition. In the end, school and governmental leadership determine who can participate in, assist with, and watch student-athlete practices and competition.

The recently released document, Guidelines — Opening Up America Again, provides national recommendations that allow a regional approach for resocialization. Three phases of resocialization are described, with each phase addressing those aspects of daily life for which restrictions remain appropriate due to COVID-19. The core principles outlined below are offered as a premise for resuming practice and competition at the collegiate level. They are meant to be consistent with the federal guidelines and otherwise reflective of the best available scientific and medical information available at the time. These core principles are intended as resources for member schools to use in coordination with the federal guidelines and related institutional and local governmental decision-making, all of which remain subject to further revision as available data and information in this space continues to emerge and evolve.

Core principles of resocialization of collegiate sport:

  1. There must not be directives at the national level that preclude resocialization.
  2. State and local authorities must have in place a plan for resocialization.
    1. In accordance with the federal guidelines, such a plan assumes the following state/local GATING CRITERIA have been satisfied:
      1. A downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses reported within a 14-day period and a downward trajectory of COVID-like syndromic cases reported within a 14-day period.
      2. A downward trajectory of documented cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests within a 14-day period.
      3. Hospitals can treat all patients without crisis care and there is a robust testing program in place for at-risk health care workers, including emerging antibody testing.
  3. There should be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of students. In keeping with the federal guidelines, universities should consider guidance provided to employers to develop and implement appropriate policies regarding the following:
    1. Social distancing and protective equipment.
    2. Temperature checks.
    3. Testing and isolating.
    4. Sanitation.
    5. Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas.
    6. School business travel.
    7. Monitoring of the workforce for indicative symptoms and preventing symptomatic people from physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider.
    8. Workforce contact tracing after an employee’s positive test for COVID-19.
  4. There must be a plan in place at the university/college level for resocialization of student-athletes within athletics. In keeping with the federal guidelines, athletics should practice the following:
    1. All student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should practice good hygiene.
    2. All student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should stay home if they feel sick.
    3. Guidance noted above for university employees should be in place within athletics.
  5. There must be adequate personal protective equipment for athletics health care providers, and there must be sanitizers to manage infection control in all shared athletics space.
  6. There must be the ability to assess immunity to COVID-19 at a regional and local level. This could include immunity at the college campus, plus a more focused assessment of herd immunity for athletics teams.
  7. There must be access to reliable, rapid diagnostic testing on any individual who is suspected of having COVID-19 symptoms.
  8. There must be in place a local surveillance system so that newly identified cases can be identified promptly and isolated, and their close contacts must be managed appropriately.
  9. There must be clearly identified and transparent risk analyses in place. Such risk analyses consider issues such as economics, education, restoration of society, and medical risk of sport participation, including COVID-19 infection and possible death.

Phase One:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, resocialization of sport for Phase One assumes the following:

  1. Gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days.
  2. Vulnerable student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel should continue to shelter in place. Vulnerable populations include individuals with serious underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity and asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised, such as by chemotherapy.
  3. Those living in dorms and other residences where vulnerable individuals reside should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home, and appropriate isolating precautions should be taken.
  4. Physical distancing should continue.
  5. Gatherings of more than 10 people should be avoided unless precautionary measures of physical distancing and sanitization are in place.
  6. Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact, should remain closed unless strict distancing and sanitation protocols can be implemented.
  7. Virtual meetings should be encouraged whenever possible and feasible.
  8. Nonessential travel should be minimized, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding isolation after travel should be implemented.

Phase Two:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, if Phase One has been implemented successfully, with no evidence of a rebound, and gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days since the implementation of Phase One:

  1. Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place.
  2. Awareness and proper isolating practices related to vulnerable individuals in residences should continue.
  3. Physical distancing should continue.
  4. Gatherings of more than 50 people should be avoided unless precautionary measures of physical distancing and sanitization are in place.
  5. Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact should remain closed, or appropriate distancing and sanitation protocols should be implemented.
  6. Virtual meetings should continue to be encouraged whenever possible and feasible.
  7. Nonessential travel may resume.

Phase Three:

In accordance with the federal guidelines, if Phase Two has been implemented successfully, with no evidence of a rebound, and gating criteria have been satisfied for a minimum of 14 days since the implementation of Phase Two:

  1. Vulnerable student-athletes, athletics health care providers, coaches and athletics personnel can resume in-person interactions, but should practice physical distancing, minimizing exposure to settings where such distancing is not practical.
  2. Gyms and common areas where student-athletes and staff are likely to congregate and interact can reopen if appropriate sanitation protocols are implemented, but even low-risk populations should consider minimizing time spent in crowded environments.
  3. Unrestricted staffing may resume.

The transition from the above core principles to a relaxation of these principles can occur when COVID-19 can be managed in a manner like less virulent influenza strains. COVID-19 has essentially shut down society because it is highly contagious and has an unacceptably high death rate. More common strains of influenza do not close society because society has learned to adapt to and develop acceptable management strategies for influenza. For COVID-19, future phases are dependent on the successful development of widely available treatment, including prophylactic immunotherapy, coupled with widespread, effective vaccination.

 

COVID-19 Advisory Panel Exercise Recommendations

During this time of crisis and behavioral risk mitigation, it is important to pay attention to your health, which includes healthy exercise. Even though winter and spring NCAA championships have been cancelled, exercise, including strength and conditioning, can be maintained with the following guidance considerations:

  • Do not exercise if you are feeling ill. This is especially important when exercising in a shared facility. COVID-19 may manifest in young adults with very mild symptoms of a cold, yet these individuals may be infectious.
  • If you have a chronic medical condition (e.g., diabetes, lung disease), avoid exercising in a shared facility.
  • When exercising in a shared facility, consider the following:
    • Maintain social distancing of six feet. If you are organizing a group workout, the logistics need to be addressed beforehand.
    • Use hand sanitizers regularly, including before and after exercise.
    • Do not touch your face while working out. If you do, sanitize your hands before continuing.
    • Shared equipment should be sanitized with a disinfectant before and after use. This includes free weights, mats, kettlebells, medicine balls, stability balls, bars, etc.
    • Group games with probable contact and a shared ball should be avoided. It is not only difficult to avoid contact, but there is also uncertainty about shared balls and virus transmission.

Guidance to the NCAA membership about the Arrington Certification Process

The purpose of this memo is to provide membership with: (1) additional information about the availability of an online platform and process that has been established to facilitate membership certification under the Arrington Class Settlement Agreement; and (2) access to related educational and instructional materials. 

The content of this memo is being provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a substitute for legal advice. We encourage you to review the content with applicable legal and other advisors and other institutional staff who might assist you in appropriately evaluating this information as it applies to your individual institutional decision about certification and related risks and practices.

REMINDER - Certifications must be submitted by May 18, 2020

In accordance with Section IX.B of the Settlement Agreement, certification is optional for NCAA member schools; but it provides certifying institutions with an opportunity to benefit from a release from certain legal claims that might otherwise be brought by members of the settlement class. To benefit from the release, member institutions must certify in writing, on or before 11:59 PM CDT (Chicago time) on May 18, 2020, that they have put in place a concussion management plan that meets the requirements of Section IX.A of the Settlement Agreement and must provide a copy of the certification to the Special Master, Class Counsel, and the Notice Administrator as described in the Settlement Agreement. Please note that, while all three divisions continue to explore the possibility of delaying certain other membership reporting obligations in response to the impact of COVID-19, the May 18 certification deadline is imposed by the terms of the Settlement Agreement which is a legal document. The Settlement Agreement does not provide for any opportunity for an extension or waiver of that deadline and the deadline should be considered permanent and immovable. 

Certification Process

A certification website and electronic certification process have been established and will be managed by third party settlement administrator Epiq Mass Tort (EPIQ). The certification website is immediately available to membership and step-by-step instructions for member institutions can be accessed here.

IMPORTANT - Prior to certification

Prior to accessing the certification website or implementing the instructions provided through the link above, it is important that each institution carefully reviews the content of Section IX and other related provisions of the Settlement Agreement, as well as the sample certification form. This review should be done with applicable legal advisors and other school staff who might assist in appropriately evaluating the certification requirements and decision, in each case as they apply to individual institutional risks and practices. A copy of the Settlement Agreement can be accessed here. A pdf copy of a sample certification form can be accessed here.

After Certification

Upon successful completion of the certification process, the individual that certifies on behalf of the institution will immediately receive an email confirming that the certification document has been completed. The email will include a pdf copy of the signed certification and the signer will be able to review an online copy as well. EPIQ will subsequently send a confirmation email to the following school personnel at the address that was on file with the NCAA on March 15:

  • Director of Athletics.
  • Athletics Health Care Administrator.
  • Director of Compliance and General Counsel (or, where no General Counsel, the President/Chancellor).

The executed certification form will also be automatically uploaded to the settlement website.  Finally, EPIQ will provide a copy of the executed certification form to each of the Special Master, Class Counsel, and the Notice Administrator, on behalf of the certifying institution, as required under the Settlement Agreement. Please note that it may take EPIQ several days after completion of the certification process to fully complete these activities.

Please note that, to support membership certification efforts, EPIQ intends to send subsequent reminders of the certification deadline to the limited group of Association stakeholders identified above at member institutions that have not yet submitted a certification between now and the certification deadline.

Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to the instructional information about the certification process, we have developed a Frequently Asked Questions document that contains answers to anticipated membership questions related to the certification process. A copy of the Certification FAQ can be accessed here.

Recommended Next Steps

As indicated above, we encourage you to review the content of Section IX and other related provisions of the Settlement Agreement, as well as the sample certification form with applicable legal advisors and other school staff who might assist in appropriately evaluating the certification requirements and decision, in each case as they apply to individual institutional risks and practices. Links to relevant certification materials are provided again for your convenience below.

We appreciate the efforts required to comply with the certification requirements, especially during these extremely challenging times. We remain committed to working with the membership to support and facilitate compliance and we greatly appreciate your continued partnership toward that effort. As always, please contact us at ssi@ncaa.org in the event you have any questions.

What NCAA members need to know about COVID-19

Member schools have the primary responsibility for ensuring that actionable plans are in place to guide the local response to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 among school personnel or a related exposure to the virus at an on-campus event. Athletics personnel should reach out to campus health care leaders at their respective school to safeguard the well-being of student-athletes, employees and fans attending athletics events.

If campus staff members have reason to believe that someone associated with the athletics department shows symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they should immediately notify the personnel on campus responsible for coordinating with local and state health officials, including public health departments.

When members are engaging with the campus health crisis leadership team about issues that may be specific to their athletics department, such as the proximity of student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and other medical personnel to one another, here are topics to discuss:

  • Guidance to athletics departments to communicate the policy to athletics personnel, including student-athletes.
  • Confirmation of procedures athletics staff members should follow to notify campus leadership of a suspected case or exposure to COVID-19, so appropriate governmental notifications can take place as soon as possible.
  • Roster and contact information of individuals assigned to the school’s action or response team charged with responding to medical emergencies or local public health crises.
  • Contact information for local and/or state health departments so athletics staff members can access resource materials.
  • Implementation of a campus policy regarding the triage and clinical management of individuals showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • NCAA guidance on medical disqualification as found in the NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook (page 34).
  • Coordination of athletics events with campus leaders and local and/or state health departments if there is a suspected outbreak of COVID-19 in the community.

More Information

For more information on the coronavirus, visit the CDC’s coronavirus page. CDC guidance on clinical signs and symptoms and infection prevention and control recommendations are available here.

As with all information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that may impact the well-being of student-athletes, the NCAA Sport Science Institute encourages athletics departments to carefully review these materials with applicable institutional health care providers and other relevant campus personnel. They should implement any appropriate risk-mitigating initiatives.

COVID-19 Coronavirus

The NCAA continues to closely monitor COVID-19 and is taking proactive measures to mitigate the impact of the virus. When it comes to decision-making, our commitment is this: protect the health and safety of college athletes.

CARE Consortium: Identifying and evaluating concussion risk factors across multiple injury settings

To gain a better understanding of how concussions occur in day-to-day life, particularly among military populations, a team of researchers led by Kathryn Van Pelt, a postdoctoral research fellow at Kentucky, examined the concussion histories of more than 10,000 cadets at three military academies participating in the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium study.

CARE Consortium: A data-driven approach to acute concussion assessment

Prominent concussion researchers previously have suggested incorporating levels of certainty into concussion diagnosis based on clinical experience. Gian-Gabriel Garcia, a postdoctoral industrial and operations engineering student at Michigan, led a team of researchers that sought to create a predictive model that could stratify concussion assessment and diagnosis based on objective data rather than clinical experience alone across a range of categories: no concussion, possible, probable or definite.

CARE Consortium: Accounting for variance in concussion tolerance between individuals

While concussion researchers have been using helmet accelerometers to measure head impacts for more than a decade, the connection between the biomechanical forces of the head impacts the players receive and the clinical effect of those impacts is poorly defined.

CARE Consortium: Estimated age at first exposure to contact sports and neurocognitive performance in service academy athletes

Age of first exposure to contact sport has uncertain implications for later life brain health. There are currently no prospective studies that have evaluated this possibility. This study, helmed by Jaclyn Caccese, a postdoctoral research fellow at Delaware, relied on data from the ongoing NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium study to examine the association between estimated age of first exposure to contact sport participation and neurocognitive performance and symptom ratings in male U.S. service academy NCAA athletes.

CARE Consortium: Prevalence of clinically significant MRI findings in athletes

Andrew Klein, an assistant professor of radiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, led a team of researchers that sought to characterize and compare the prevalence of acute, head-trauma-related MRI findings and nonspecific MRI findings in contact and noncontact athletes with and without sport-related concussion by using data from the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium study.

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