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#WeWantToPlay, but Pac-12, ASU worried about virus’ long-term effects

(Facebook Photo/Arizona State University)

Students athletes behind the #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited movements made clear that they felt it was worth the risk to play sports this semester during the coronavirus pandemic.

That is not to be, at least over the next few months. The Pac-12 postponed the athletics calendar, announcing Tuesday that no sporting event will be played in the fall semester. It hopes to have fall sports take place in the spring.

While some student athletes made their position clear, some even saying they would sign liability waivers, those in charge of the Pac-12 did not think what they asked was realistic based on the messages of those in the medical field.

ASU athletic director Ray Anderson and football coach Herm Edwards said during a Zoom press conference Tuesday that it was the responsibility of the conference leaders to protect the players, even if that went against their wishes.

“We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘OK we’re going to have a lawyered-up legal document relieve us of our responsibility to protect you,’” Anderson said. “If the medical and health information that we have from our very respected and renowned physician groups said it’s not safe enough to have these student athletes out there, then we can’t give up our responsibility and accountability to do right thing.”

Part of the increased concern comes from recent studies that have shown a risk of myocarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart and can have particularly adverse effects on those who are more active, according to ASU health services and counseling services associate vice president Dr. Aaron Krasnow.

Anderson said that even if athletes would recover in the immediate future, there is worry of long-term effects.

“When I heard about this myocarditis and the fact it’s an inflammation of the heart disease that can do the equivalent of hardening your arteries and making your ability to pump blood less and put you at risk, just the thought of six or seven or eight years from now, one of our student athletes would fall over like that – and while under our care, we didn’t do everything we could to prevent him or her from being in that situation – that affected me,” he said.

He likened it to the death of his father, who at age 31 died when he went into cardiac arrest that had similar effects.

Edwards had similar messages, talking about how he didn’t want to face the risk of putting athletes in harm’s way.

As of Tuesday evening, the Pac-12 and Big 10 had postponed the season while the SEC, ACC and Big 12 still planned to play.

Despite three other conferences planning to move forward, Anderson said opinions outside the Pac-12 and the conference’s medical advisors would not sway the university presidents’ opinions.

“I can’t be more proud of our medical advisory group in the Pac-12 for calling out the caution to say ‘Hold it, stop it, this isn’t worth somebody dying of a heart attack on our field,’” he said.

“Coach, player, either now or five or six or seven years from now when it could have been preventable. So we have a different approach to this here, to be sure, and that’s part of it. And we don’t make apologies for it.”

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