With NBA gameplay set to tipoff in Orlando in less than three weeks, all eyes are on the so-called ‘bubble’ where players and staff will work and live to avoid exposure to COVID-19. If successful, the ramification could be far-reaching, so the NBA is working with researchers at the Mayo Clinic to determine whether this method of isolation could work for other sports and society on a larger scale. 

The NBA has agreed to take part in a study to “help detect antibodies to the coronavirus” that “can help identify people who’ve had past infection and who may not have had any symptoms,” explained Dr. Priya Sampathkumar, consultant in the division of infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic.

Asymptomatic spread has been a major concern as people try to find ways to return to life outside of home. The NBA’s willingness to contribute to “scientific discovery,” according to Sampathkumar, could provide a path.

“The NBA has really embraced science and technology and is doing a lot of different things to keep players safe when they get back to playing in the bubble,” she said.

The league is also providing teams and workers in the Disney ‘bubble’ with Oura smart rings in an effort to detect early symptoms of the virus, although research about their efficacy is ongoing. Preventative measures like testing and using wearable monitors are all steps that could curb the spread “if everyone follows the rules,” Sampathkumar said.

“I think it could apply to all sports. The next step will be, of course, figuring out how fans fit into this,” she added. “I think we’re a ways away from being able to do that.”

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