NFL adjusts testing procedures to address false positives

Getty Images

The Matthew Stafford situation forced the NFL and NFL Players Association to revisit its COVID-19 testing protocols to address the dynamic of false positives. Per multiple reports, the NFL and NFLPA have unveiled a revised protocol aimed at addressing, and rectifying, the possibility of false positives.

Although the memo doesn’t use the term “false positive,” the adjustments to the procedures are intended to give players who test positive and who have no symptoms a quicker path back to practice and/or games.

It’s smart, it’s practical, and it’s fair. If a player has a false positive, he shouldn’t be knocked out of game preparations or, even worse, a game.

But here’s the unspoken donut hole in the NFL’s adjustment to the testing policy: Both false positives and false negatives happen. But the procedures aren’t being adjusted to address false negatives. And false negatives, unlike false positives, pose a very real risk of an outbreak.

Any player or coach who slips through the cracks with a false negative can shed virus on coworkers or opponents before a true positive test identifies the person’s actual status. By then, the damage could be done.

Unless and until the rate of false outcomes reduces to zero, the testing protocol will have inherent flaws. And while steps can be taken to eradicate false positives, nothing can be done to rectify false negatives until the next test is taken.

As the NFL continues to inch toward a season that will in many ways amount to an experiment, the ongoing threat of false negatives renders the whole operation a house of cards that remains at the mercy of a gust of wind.

12 responses to “NFL adjusts testing procedures to address false positives

  1. There is no absolute in biology. In sex – you can use a condom, spermicide, the pill, and diaphragm (all at once), and there is still a 1% chance at getting pregnant.

  2. With the billions the NFL and every team has why not implement 3 tests daily or all at once to minimize the false negatives and/or the false positives?

  3. Although the memo doesn’t use the term “false positive,” the adjustments to the procedures are intended to give players who test positive and who have no symptoms a quicker path back to practice and/or games.
    =====================================================================================

    I thought if you tested positive but had no symptoms it meant you were asympotematic. What is the difference? Does it depend how important the next game is? If positive are they tested immediately afterwards, to verify?

    This needs further clarification.

  4. False positives aren’t just an NFL problem. It’s a problem wit the tests in general. 16 days ago the CDC claimed antibody tests yield false positives half the time. 10 days ago the state of Connecticut state lab found 90 false positives out of 144 coronavirus tests given from May-June. There’s a ton of trial and error going on. We should obviously air on the side of caution, but this is good news in the grand scheme of things.

  5. Half of the total numbers are false positives.
    Hospitals are raking it in with every case.

  6. From what I understand, false negatives are a huge problem too. Especially between days 1-4 of exposure, but even after that. What a mess.

  7. false positives are about ten pct per the cdc, mot what the other guy said, and hospitals are getting extra money to deal with the costs of treating patients, they are certainly not raking it in anymore than they normally do (which they certainly do, but not solely due to covid)

  8. I thought if you tested positive but had no symptoms it meant you were asympotematic. What is the difference? Does it depend how important the next game is? If positive are they tested immediately afterwards, to verify?

    This needs further clarification.

    ——————————————————————————————

    They are describing a situation where the person gets a positive result because of lab error and the person does not have COVID. This is a false positive.

    You are describing a different situation where the person is infected with COVID and tests positive but does not have any symptoms. This is an asymptomatic true positive.

  9. You all realize that the tests are constructed in such a way that the rate of false negatives is much lower than the rate of false positives? (Read about Type I vs. Type II error.)

  10. I am always right, right? says:
    August 7, 2020 at 6:23 pm
    There is no absolute in biology. In sex – you can use a condom, spermicide, the pill, and diaphragm (all at once), and there is still a 1% chance at getting pregnant.

    ————————————————

    Put a point and put a whole lot of zeroes in front of that integer (1) and this will be somewhat accurate. Somewhat. The odds are about as great as a virgin conceiving a child, à la, y’know, a miracle

  11. I thought if you tested positive but had no symptoms it meant you were asympotematic. What is the difference? Does it depend how important the next game is? If positive are they tested immediately afterwards, to verify?

    This needs further clarification.
    =============

    You don’t just let them in because of no symptoms. You retest to confirm or override the initial test. Someone above mentioned doing 3 tests to weed out false results in either direction. Best 2-out-of-3 results.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.