Similar to the professional sports leagues in the United States, the NCAA is constantly updating its health and safety protocols to deal with the reality of the fast-changing COVID-19 virus. Apparently, the governing body is making a major adjustment to one particular aspect of its policy.
According to Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger, the NCAA medical advisory group is changing its definition of what it means to be a "fully vaccinated" student-athlete. From now on, only those that have received a COVID-19 booster shot will be labeled in that category.
The NCAA's definition will only apply to those that are eligible for a booster shot. Athletes who are not eligible for the booster but are vaccinated, with either two shots of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or a single shot of Johnson and Johnson, are still considered to be fully vaccinated.
The NCAA's adjustment to the protocols could result in schools and programs rushing to get additional booster vaccinations for their athletes. With the Omicron variant surging around the country, college sports currently in season have had to deal with widespread postponements and cancellations over the last few weeks.
It's important to note that the new protocols are only recommendations or “considerations,” according to Dellenger. Conferences and individuals schools can choose whether or not to adhere to the NCAA's guidance or create their own guidelines based on their local health department guidance. Many Power 5 conferences had done exactly that, tailoring their protocols to match the latest CDC guidelines.
The change in definition of what it means to be a fully vaccinated player isn't the only adjustment the NCAA plans to make to its guidelines when they're officially announced on Thursday. Some protocols are being relaxed, including the return-to-play period for this who test positive for COVID-19.
Under the new guidelines, vaccinated or unvaccinated athletes who test positive for the virus can return to athletic activity without a mask as long as they produce a negative test after their five days of isolation.
Time will tell what other changes the NCAA plans to unveil during its announcement on Thursday.