NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia

With camps open and the start of the 2020 season around the corner, the need to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes has become paramount as we near kickoff. As a result, the SEC has decided to beef up its testing procedures. 

The conference announced Friday that it will mandate teams to evaluate players' troponin levels, conduct an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram and a medical evaluation by a physician. In addition to the increased cardiac evaluations, the conference will mandate a third COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test for each "high risk" sport that requires close contact for a prolonged period of time. The conference had previously required two PCR tests during the season.

"We remain vigilant in monitoring the trends and effects of COVID-19 as we learn more about the virus, and this cardiac evaluation enhances the effectiveness of the protocols already in place," commissioner Greg Sankey said. "We are confident in our institutions' ability to provide a healthy environment supported by rigorous testing and surveillance.  Our student-athletes have indicated their desire to compete and it is our responsibility to make every effort to deliver a healthy and medically sound environment for providing that opportunity."

All testing will be conducted by a third-party provider in order to provide accurate results that aren't influenced by the school or player.

The increased focus on cardiac health has become more prevalent over the last few weeks. Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, has been linked to viral infections including COVID-19. The condition has played a part in the decisions of the Big Ten and Pac-12 to postpone the fall football schedule in the hopes of playing in the spring. Mikele Colasurdo, a freshman quarterback for Georgia State, opted out of the 2020 season after his bout with COVID-19 resulted in the detection of a previously-undiscovered heart condition. 

The NCAA and Power Five conferences announced last month a set of minimum testing guidelines that included one PCR test per week within 72 hours of competition.

Below are the complete protocols established by the SEC specific to players and coaches/staff in football two weeks ago. The complete SEC guidelines be read in their entirety here

  • Medical staff who have a reasonable expectation for daily or frequent student-athlete interaction will be required to undergo similar surveillance as the student-athletes and coaching staff. Medical staff who only interact with the team on game day shall be PCR tested once per week, three days prior to the assigned competition at the respective member institution where such personnel shall operate. 
  • All coaches, staff and non-competing student-athletes are required to wear a face mask/neck gaiter on the sideline. Physical distancing should be employed to the extent possible. Competing student-athletes shall wear a neck gaiter that can be used for timeouts, conferring with coaches on the sideline, etc. At this time, face shields are not a suitable replacement for a face mask/ neck gaiters for non-competing student-athletes, coaches and other staff on the sidelines. 

Additionally, all officials are required to wear a face mask/neck gaiter when physical distancing cannot be achieved, excluding active play. Individuals working the sideline will be required to wear a face mask/neck gaiter at all times.

Each SEC program is required to designate a COVID-19 protocol oversight officer to educate and ensure all compliance with the conference's mandates.