As student athletes from The University of Texas at San Antonio begin to return to campus to practice for the upcoming season, new testing policies supported by the UT Health Physicians primary care team ensure that activities can resume as safely as possible.

Before the pandemic, plans were already underway to further the long-standing partnership with UTSA by providing their athletic department access to sports medicine-related care with services such as cardiology, neurology and orthopaedics, said Johnna Nerios, MHA, BSN, RN, director of practice operations, UT Health Physicians.

‘But when COVID-19 hit, they knew they needed a plan to bring back their athletes in the safest way possible, and we are here to provide that support,” said Nerios. “We’re really all working as one big team right now to make sure that they have easy, streamlined processes to access any service that they may need.”

New policies mandate that all athletes must test negative for COVID-19 before they can resume any training or practice. As student-athletes return, they must first self-quarantine for two weeks, submitting daily questionnaires about their health and symptoms. Should an athlete report any symptoms, they are promptly evaluated through a video visit with a UT Health San Antonio primary care physician to determine if they need to be tested at one of the three drive-thru testing sites offered by the primary care practices.

Those reporting no symptoms throughout the quarantine period are still required to be tested on a scheduled “bulk testing” day. Staggered waves of athletes, sometimes up to 70 in a day, are swabbed at the drive-thru testing sites and their results are quickly processed by the pathology department at UT Health San Antonio.

“We are very fortunate to be working so closely with the pathology department and getting those results within a day,” Nerios said. “The sooner we can identify someone that’s positive, the sooner we can make sure they’re isolated and will not continue spreading. That’s not only good for their teammates and coaches, but it’s also good for the whole community.”

Currently, the UTSA Roadrunners are scheduled to move forward as planned, with the first football game of the season slated for Sept. 5. There are still many unknowns surrounding college athletics, with looming questions over the safety of resuming the season. However, regular testing can at least provide the information needed to best make those decisions, said Nerios.

This process of testing will continue throughout the year as different athletes gear up for each new sport season. Additional primary care services beyond COVID-19 testing will also provide continued support for UTSA athletes.

“It’s really about meeting the needs of our partners at UTSA,” Nerios said. “So that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to take care of people. I think we’re very fortunate to be able to partner with UTSA’s athletics department and be able to help in that way because that’s what we do.”