UIL Medical Advisory committee struggles to set guidelines as sports seasons begin

A+still+life+photo+captures+a+basketball%2C+volleyball+and+football+wearing+a+mask.+The+medical+advisory+committee+members+talked+about+recommendations+today%2C+Aug.+7%2C+that+they+could+give+regarding+play+and+protocols+for+the+2020+year%2C+and+how+a+Covid-19+diagnosis+will+be+handled.++%22This+is+going+to+be+a+work+in+progress.+Unfortunately%2C+there%27s+going+to+be+trial+and+error%2C+and+there%27s+going+to+be+some+problems+because+we%E2%80%99ve+got+so+many+different+sized+school+districts%2C%E2%80%9D+board+member+Cary+Tanamachi+said.+%E2%80%9CBut+that%27s+kind+of+where+we%27re+really+relying+on+our+board+of+education+for+each+individual+school+district.%E2%80%9D

Christi Norris

A still life photo captures a basketball, volleyball and football wearing a mask. The medical advisory committee members talked about recommendations today, Aug. 7, that they could give regarding play and protocols for the 2020 year, and how a Covid-19 diagnosis will be handled. "This is going to be a work in progress. Unfortunately, there's going to be trial and error, and there's going to be some problems because we’ve got so many different sized school districts,” board member Cary Tanamachi said. “But that's kind of where we're really relying on our board of education for each individual school district.”

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Members of the Texas University Interscholastic League Medical Advisory Committee admitted in their virtual meeting held over Zoom today, Aug. 7, that they are struggling to put together a set of rules for high school athletes due to the constantly-updating COVID-19 information.

“The purpose of the Medical Advisory Committee is to examine the health and safety of students involved in interscholastic activity participation,” according to the UIL official website. “It is the goal of the committee to work cooperatively with the UIL Standing Committees and the UIL Legislative Council to address sports medicine issues as they impact rules and the health and safety of participants.”

We’re on unproved waters right now as it is. We’re really going to have to see what national standards are going to be, so we can keep in line. It’s going to be hard to set down guidelines when we really don’t know what’s going to happen. There are so many intricacies that go on with this Covid-19 situation.”

— Cary Tanamachi

Head volleyball coach and assistant campus athletic coordinator Erin Kauffman said coaches are following the directions of school trainers and nurses.

“I expect all medical-related stuff to go through and come from our trainers and our school nurse, as they are the experts,” Kauffman said. “Whatever they say, we do.”

UIL Medical Advisory Committee members said that their role is not to intrude on athletes’ and students’ physicians, and doctors have the final say on whether students are safe to go back to school after a Covid-19 diagnosis. 

 “We shouldn’t be in the business of telling physicians what they need to do to clear them (athletes),” member Arnold Fenrich said. “They should just be referred to their primary care professional or their physician. They should clear them depending on what the guidelines are at the time because they may change, and we can’t be constantly updating that.”

The group met to discuss how medical procedures will be covered for the 2020-2021 sports year. Any decisions the advisory committee makes could affect Prosper’s “Athletes return to campus plan” and other policies.

“The policies in our plan are designed to minimize risk for you (athletes) and others,” Prosper Independent School District said in its official ‘return to campus plan.’ “It is vital to the health and safety of everyone that our athletes and staff are fully conscious of this at all times and take responsibility for following these guidelines and taking them seriously.”

Kauffman said coaches are following the guidelines and participating in social distancing, sanitation and wearing face coverings.

“We are making sure the girls have their masks on when not actively playing volleyball,” Kauffman said. “We are attempting to socially distance ourselves as much as possible, disinfecting the balls after every practice, urging anyone who feels sick to stay home, not allowing the girls to use their lockers, just utilizing their locker room as a changing room, and they will bring their bags into the gym, no sharing of water bottles. And, we purchased face masks and travel hand sanitizer for every girl and coach in our program.”

The UIL Medical Advisory Committee members indicated that they did not all feel comfortable establishing hard guidelines at this time.

“We’re on unproved waters right now as it is. We’re really going to have to see what national standards are going to be, so we can keep in line,” committee member Cary Tanamachi said. “It’s going to be hard to set down guidelines when we really don’t know what’s going to happen. There are so many intricacies that go on with this Covid-19 situation.”

This screenshot provides a glimpse of members of the Texas University Interscholastic League Medical Advisory Meeting that took place on Aug 7. The purpose of the Medical Advisory Committee is to help UIL in making educated choices during the Covid-19 pandemic. “The committee develops position statements and guidelines to assist the UIL membership in making informed decisions concerning sports medicine issues,” the UIL website said. “Any recommendations from this committee are presented to the UIL Legislative Council Committee.”

Committee members said they are relying on individual school boards to make the final decision on how Covid-19 diagnosis will be handled.

“This is going to be a work in progress,” Tanamachi said. “Unfortunately, there’s going to be trial and error, and there’s going to be some problems because we’ve got so many different-sized school districts. But, that’s kind of where we’re really relying on our committee of education for each individual school district.”

The committee also noted the abundance of information to examine.

“There’s so many guidelines now to go through,” Tanamachi said. “They’re going to hopefully be able to sort some of that out, but right now, for us to set down guidelines to go by, I think that’s just not going to be an appropriate thing to do because it’s a moving target.”

Fenrich said the complications other leagues are facing may indicate troubles ahead for high school athletes.

“I think it’s going be really difficult to even have high school sports or school sports if the pro sports are having a really tough time continuing to play because of COVID positive patients, and they have unlimited resources and medical personnel to evaluate and treat their players,” Fenrich said. “I can’t imagine how that’s going to be able to work in schools where kids may go days before they realize they have COVID. In the meantime, they’ve spread it to multiple other teammates and classmates.” 

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I expect all medical-related stuff to go through and come from our trainers and our school nurse, as they are the experts! Whatever they say, we do!”

— Erin Kauffman