LSU officially starts its long trek to the return of a college football season on Monday. The Tiger players have been filing in from across the country for the last week for testing and meetings on the various protocols that will need to be taken to ensure their safety.
The training staff, spearheaded by senior associate athletic trainer Shelly Mullenix and director of athletic training Jack Marucci, have led the charge not only at LSU, but in the SEC. The conference has used LSU's detailed guidelines as the blueprints for allowing other SEC programs to open their doors because of the process laid out by LSU.
"We kind of led the league in terms of protocols and how to do that. These athletes are prospering and chomping at the bit to get back," LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said during the Coaches Caravan in May.
In addition to the guidelines provided by the SEC, LSU set up its own separate set of blueprints in addition to the SEC's requirements.
- Strict and daily screening for student-athletes and staff on campus including temperature checks and CDC questionnaire for entry to athletics facilities.
- Members of the athletic training staff have been trained and certified in contact tracing.
- Education component required for all student-athletes and staff and provided to parents and guardians prior to return of student-athletes.
- Secured a sound testing approach that addresses the need for both PCR and antibody data.
- Strategic physical distancing protocols for volunteer in-person activities.
- Robust quarantine and isolation procedures.
- Working with local and state agencies to secure necessary PPE to provide a safe environment that will help to minimize risk of viral spread.
- Addressing dietary needs through modified performance nutrition center guidelines.
The question that most want answered is what would the process look like if an athlete were to contract the coronavirus?
As football players return to campus, some SEC schools reportedly have a number of athletes who've contracted COVID-19. Alabama reportedly had five players test positive for the virus with one of those players participating in a player-led workout with multiple other players.
At Ole Miss, one student athlete and one staffer also contracted the disease. This is an issue the SEC and LSU prepared for. The Advocate reported that the Tigers will use contact tracing as a method to help keep the disease from spreading should an athlete or staffer test positive.
LSU will approach each positive test on a case be case basis as some may need isolation while others could need to monitor their symptoms for "a few days" before returning. It's all in an effort to keep the virus in check as Mullenix and the training staff will also follow up with any people the infected player or staff member may have come in contact with.
Unlike other schools across the SEC, there haven't been any reported positive tests at LSU as of yet. Woodward said earlier in the week, if they were to start popping up, the administration would be ready for it.
"When we have issues and we have problems, we'll deal with them," Woodward said this week in a virtual town hall hosted by the Advocate. "Isolate, quarantine and do it because there's no doubt we'll have people that did test positive and we'll deal with it. That's a good thing and the more time we have, the better off we are to know how to deal with it."
Only strength and conditioning coaches will be allowed in the workout room with the athletes. Student athletes will also be required to wear masks in the hallways in between their workouts and will have to take their meals to-go from the nutrition center.
While this plan doesn't 100% ensure player safety, when facing a pandemic like the coronavirus that spreads so easily, nothing is a guarantee. LSU is taking all of the requisite steps to keep the virus out and only once workouts start up will we start to know how effective the plan is.