College football played in the spring with face shields 'a reality'

USA Today Sports - By Dan Harralson | July 2, 2020 8:32 pm ET

Super-spread events in stadiums are the main spreader of this virus

Week 0 of the college football season is scheduled to kick off next month on Aug. 29.

It remains unclear if the season will be played in its entirety. The possibility of the college football season being postponed until the 2021 spring semester also hovers over the sport.

Vols Wire has learned a topic of discussion throughout college football is postponing the season with February as a possible target date.

Frank Engelsman, CEO of Ultrascan Research and founder of Ultrascan-AGI, discussed the reality of college football being played during the 2021 spring semester.

“The problem is that super-spread events in stadiums are the main spreader of this virus,” Engelsman told Vols Wire. “The reason is because it is the aerosols, not the normal drops of fluid, that travel 1.5 meters and drop to the ground.”

Engelsman noted that student-athletes wearing face shields around their helmet can help with ventilation and transmission.

“There needs to be better ventilation to help prevent the spread of aerosols,” he said. “Helmets should have face shields to adapt their ventilation. It is a reality.”

Engelsman mentioned that “if ventilation is not recycling air from the playing field, and pushing in fresh air, that might not be necessary.”

“It is all about inside air under certain circumstances,” he continued. “It is under normal circumstances, close to impossible, to get sick in an open-air situation.”


A critical part going forward for campuses is ventilation in buildings.

Engelsman mentioned that universities should focus on repairing ventilation in buildings during the fall semester and playing football during the 2021 spring semester.

“The current plan should be to adapt all air systems in buildings before the autumn and winter start – a billion-dollar effort that should be supported by the federal government. It is important that where people shout, sing or speak aloud, that if they are carriers of the virus, the highest risk is spreading it by aerosols.

“This is tricky, even in an open stadium, with higher and lower levels, if a carrier is high up in the stadium with certain conditions of temperature and humidity, then the normal drops from the mouth drop on the floor, making aerosols the primary risk because they float a lot longer in the air. So for that, there has to be a check on how the air flows move in stadiums.”

NCAA coronavirus advisory panel: Football season in February ‘might be one’ modification

Amesh Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, is part of the NCAA coronavirus advisory panel.

Adalja told Vols Wire that the 2020 college football season could showcase student-athletes wearing face shields as a precaution against COVID-19.

“Because these cases are occurring among young people who intend to be spared from severe consequences, it makes it even harder from a public health standpoint,” Adalja said.

Adalja discussed that having college football postponed until February could be one modification to the upcoming season.

“You might have better control of the outbreak at that time, but we still won’t have a vaccine,” Adalja said of postponing the season until February. “You have to think about all kinds of modifications and that might be one.

“This virus is going to be with us until we have a vaccine, and if we are going to do sports, you have to come up with a way to try and make it feasible. I think pushing it off, you may still have those same problems — I don’t think we have an easy answer to this.”

NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions’ Joe Novak discusses ‘No. 1 concern is health’ in football being played

Former Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak currently serves on the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions.

Novak discussed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and how it should be looked at closely before the 2020 college football season is considered feasible to be played.

“It is, obviously, such a unique situation,” Novak told Vols Wire. “Nobody really has anything to look back on and use as a point of reference. We are going to make sure we do right by these kids.”

In reference to Adalja on the NCAA coronavirus advisory panel, the former Northern Illinois head coach mentioned “you are talking with the right folks when you are talking with the doctors.”

“As a coach, when the trainer came and tapped me on the shoulder, I listened to what they said and that is the way we went,” he said. “If they said a player could not play, he did not play. If they said he needed time off, then he took time off.

“We are not doctors, we are coaches and we want to go, but obviously the No. 1 concern is the health of these kids. Lose one and you will never forgive yourself, so you do not want to do that.”

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