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Stricklin says COVID-19 positive UF athletes will receive medical evaluation prior to return

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin discussed the football team’s ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in a 2-minute video posted to the Gators’ social media account, revealing all players who have tested positive will undergo cardiac evaluations prior to resuming athletic activities.

“Before our student-athletes who are infected return to activity, they will complete a cardiac evaluation that includes a troponin-level test, an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram,” Stricklin said. “The student-athletes will also have a complete medical evaluation through UFHealth physicians.”

A troponin-level test measures the level of troponin T proteins in the bloodstream, which are released into the body when a person’s heart has been damaged. While more research is necessary, the scientific community has been studying the rise of cardiac issues –– including myocarditis, which can lead to cardiac arrhythmia and the possibility of sudden cardiac death –– in infected COVID-19 patients regardless of the person’s age.

“We remain hopeful that through our experts at UFHealth and our sports staff, along with the guidance from the SEC Medical Task Force, Gator student-athletes are in the safest environment possible as they pursue their academic and athletic goals,” Stricklin said.

Florida initially announced six positive COVID-19 test results Oct. 13, just three days after losing 41-38 at Texas A&M. In the latest update Tuesday, the Gators announced 31 scholarship players have tested positive. 

UF coach Dan Mullen, who announced his positive test result Oct. 18, said during Wednesday’s SEC teleconference the Gators had an additional positive test result earlier in that day, bringing the total number of known positive tests to 35 when factoring in Florida’s coaching staff. In Friday’s statement, Stricklin once again attributed the outbreak to a gap in the testing protocols, which called for players to be tested Thursday prior to traveling and again Sunday upon returning to UF campus rather than daily.

“Now, it’s believed that a couple individuals, who just a day before the trip had tested negative for COVID through the SEC testing protocol, developed mild symptoms that they attributed to allergies or the common cold, and then boarded the team plane on that Friday,” Stricklin said. “The same individuals subsequently tested positive for COVID on Sunday of that week.”

All staff and players who traveled to College Station “have been instructed to quarantine and participate in daily testing through October 26, and that continues”, said Stricklin. 

Stricklin, who revealed his own COVID-19 experience in July, said the program is delivering meals to affected athletes to help ensure the quarantine. Still, as Mullen noted multiple times throughout the preseason, it’s up to the athletes themselves to follow protocols in place; WUFT News, the student newsroom at UF, included a report claiming football players had recently hosted an off-campus party in an investigation Thursday on students across Florida turning in peers for breaking COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Likewise, our academic advising unit continues to assist our student-athletes virtually,” Stricklin said, later closing his message with gratitude for the fanbase. “In closing, I’d like to thank each of you for your patience and continued support during this time. Stay safe, and Go Gators.”