Big Ten trims COVID-19 return time from 21 days to 17 days

Big Ten players in all sports who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to miss a minimum of 17 days, a reduction from 21 days, according to new league guidelines.

A document obtained by ESPN shows that the Big Ten's medical subcommittee of the return to competition task force approved the changes Wednesday, which will go into effect Monday. Players who are confirmed positive for COVID-19 through PCR testing must still go through extensive cardiac testing, including a cardiac MRI, and receive clearance from team physicians before they can return to competition "any earlier than the 17th calendar day after the sample was taken for PCR diagnosis," according to the document.

Cardiac screening for players will include "labs/biomarkers, ECG, echocardiogram, and a cardiac MRI," according to the document.

"Cardiac clearance can occur once all cardiac testing is negative and clearance is provided by the institution's designated cardiologist," the document reads.

The Big Ten had imposed more stringent protocols for players who test positive for COVID-19, as other leagues had applied quarantine guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The policy change could impact Big Ten champion Ohio State, which Sunday was selected to the College Football Playoff and will face No. 2 Clemson on Jan. 1 in the semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Ohio State played without 22 players Saturday in the Big Ten championship game against Northwestern, including leading receiver Chris Olave and second-leading tackler Baron Browning. The team does not specify why players miss games, although starting punter Drue Chrisman confirmed on Twitter that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Sources said there had been a rise in positive COVID-19 tests among Buckeyes players and staff last week.

Indiana also could be impacted by the new protocol after canceling its last two games after a rise in COVID-19 cases within the program. The Hoosiers are awaiting their bowl invitation Sunday.