Dr. Aloiya Earl: "The Safest Place for These College Athletes is that Football Facility"

Tyler Martin | SI

Aug 14, 2020

The debate is raging, and it played a role in some major conferences, like the Big Ten and Pac-12, to shut their football programs down earlier this week.

Myocarditis. A condition that involves inflammation of the heart muscle after a viral infection like COVID-19, the common cold, or the flu, etc. In some rare instances, it has caused sudden cardiac death in athletes.

"We have known about myocarditis for a while now," Dr. Aloiya Earl told the All Things Bama Podcast. "What is so frustrating about the decision to cancel or postpone the football season is that this condition is so well-known. We have really good ways to screen for it.

"One of the more recent publications from the British Journal of Sports Medicine from June talked in detail about the risks with myocarditis in athletes and gave clear guidelines to screen and test for it so we can have safe sports. In July, another publication from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, which a lot of team doctors are apart of, that gave us even more instruction on how to handle it."

"For the conferences talking about having a spring season, COVID-19 is not going away in the spring and the risk of myocarditis is not either. I am really curious to know where that decision came from because if we are solely talking about the myocarditis standpoint, I felt we were as prepared as you could be."

Earl, who completed her three-year residency at Ohio State and, then, a one-year fellowship program at Alabama under head medical trainer Jeff Allen, now practices full-time at Premier Orthopedics in Dayton, Ohio.

She believes the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 are making the right decision pushing forward with a fall football season. She also explained why she thinks medical experts are not aligning up on the same side of issues regarding COVID-19.

"Among a lot of my colleagues and different doctors in different fields, there are so many differing opinions," Earl said. "Everyone has different information. Some medical professionals are getting their information from the media and news sources, and within that, there can be mistrust.

"If we are not giving our numbers and data to the CDC, then who can you trust? Because the CDC was our guiding light in decision making for medical professionals. There is a transparency issue. That is probably why there is the biggest discrepancy with our decision makers."

Earl ultimately believes that the three Power Five conferences moving forward are making the right decision because there is the infrastructure in place, at these schools, to manage all of the risks involving the novel coronavirus.

 "I do believe it is safe," Earl said. "I can not overstate a few things. One, these student-athletes are so strongly supported by the medical staffs at these Power Five schools. They have tremendous team physicians and athletic trainers. The best medical care for the athletes are at these universities.

"The other part of that is the structure of being in the football facility everyday, being checked everyday, and making sure no one has symptoms. The way they are monitored makes them safer than they would be if there were in their own communities. 

"The safest place to be is inside that football program."