David Chao, MD: NFL is Winning the Game Against Covid, Must Remain Diligent As Season Starts

It was not long ago many were predicting doom and gloom for the NFL. The ‘CoronaBros’ as Clay Travis has nicknamed them, cited any number of reasons why sports in general, let alone just the NFL, could not work.

They were wrong. So far.

It is now 16 straight days with zero positive tests for The Shield and of the over 2500 current players and only one remains on a COVID list. 

A bubble was never really an option for the NFL. The NBA and NHL have (thus far) successfully executed bubbles but they are finishing truncated seasons. The average time in the bubble is six weeks or less. Add training camp, season, playoffs, and Super Bowl, the NFL would have to quarantine players for over six months.

That was NEVER happening. 

The next challenge that the league will face is travel with games are around the corner. The NFL and its players/coaches/staff will have to remain diligent. The fact remains the risk of COVID is greater when in the facility or in the community than on game day. 

I have reviewed the NFL travel protocols and they seem reasonable. Honestly, the changes are relatively minimal. NFL teams already take private charters and are segregated from the public on buses and at the hotels. The main changes are to spread out with larger planes, more buses, single rooms, bigger meal grab-and-go areas.

Many still unnecessarily fear the contact of football itself on game day. True the transmission of COVID during tackling/blocking has not been studied but if one understands the concept of viral load it is easy to see short term contact is not typically how the disease is transmitted.

The CDC says being within six feet for over 15-minutes puts someone at potential risk. The vast majority of opponents would not fall into this time category over a three-plus hour game. Perhaps an offensive line whose quarterback makes long calls or audibles at the line of scrimmage or plays more against a defensive lineman that doesn't substitute/rotate/flip sides would that exposure approach 15 minutes. In fact, the contact tracing threshold is more likely to be reached in the offensive huddle or as position groups stay near each other on the sidelines.

If the NFL gets thru the regular season, perhaps it would consider a bubble for the playoffs. That would be more feasible and add safety.

Philip Rivers asked in a player call that if he were to be asymptomatic but test positive the week of the Super Bowl, would he have to sit? The answer was yes. I could see the league and players going to a quarantine bubble during the playoffs. But that is it.

Kudos to the NFL so far. It has executed a good plan and will need to continue. The start of the season on time seems on track as I have always thought

The next step is to get finished without postponements or delays due to COVID.

Written by
David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.