The Mayo Clinic and the Minnesota Timberwolves, led by Vice President of Basketball Performance and Technology Dr. Robby Sikka, are teaming up for an NBA-wide study on the presence of coronavirus antibodies.
The study is expected to have participation of all 30 teams, according to a report by ESPN’s Malika Andrews. The Timberwolves were inspired to get further involved after Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother, Jacqueline Towns, died after contracting the virus. It mirrors a previous study done in Major League Baseball.
T-wolves spearhead antibody study
The study will try to find what percentage of players, coaches, executives and staff have developed antibodies to COVID-19. They provide evidence of a previous infection and could help determine who is at a lower risk of contracting the disease as well as the spread in the league.
“With coronavirus being so new, we’re still not sure whether these antibodies will last more than a few months or if it truly means you are immune,” Dr. Priya Sampathkumar, a consultant at the Mayo Clinic, told The Ringer. “But with most viruses, when you have antibodies, it means you have immunity to the virus for several months or several years.”
The study will use blood samples using the finger prick method, per ESPN. Mayo Clinic hopes it will validate the less invasive method, per ESPN, and therefore make widespread antibody testing easier for the general public. Sampathkumar told The Ringer if the finger test method is successful, people could take it at home and send the specimen to a lab for testing.
Timberwolves impacted by Towns family
Executives told ESPN that the loss of a star player’s mother impacted their choice to get more involved. Jacqueline Towns died in April after an extended battle with COVID-19.
"It very much hit home for us," Sikka said, via ESPN. "I am never going to forget that experience with Karl. It changed my life, it changed his life, it changed our organization's history. It was extremely challenging for everybody."
While Jacqueline was in a coma due to lung issues, Karl Anthony Towns took to Instagram to plead with people to stay home. It was two weeks after the league suspended play after members of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus.
"We took a cue from KAT and his family," Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas said, via ESPN. "We took that cue and looked for ways to be good teammates to the NBA and the 29 other teams by connecting with Mayo Clinic to try to find strategies to fight the virus."
Towns donated $100,000 to Sikka and the Mayo Clinic before his mother’s death — and days after the sports world came to a halt — to help with any coronavirus research.
MLB’s antibody study
Major League Baseball also took part in an antibody study conducted by Stanford University, USC and the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory. It was also a pinprick study with results available in 10 minutes. The study, released last week, found that 60 of 5,754 participants tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.
It was conducted in mid-April and had not yet been reviewed given widespread interest in the finding.
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