Aug 10, 2020Q&A with Colts’ Trainer Dave Hammer on NFL Returning Safely
Much like the rest of the football world, those a part of the National Football League have begun balancing playing football while being conscious of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NFL players have started to report to their team’s athletic facilities and with that comes an emphasis on staying healthy — both on and off the field.
Dave Hammer, the Indianapolis Colts’ longtime head athletic trainer, has spent a lifetime keeping players healthy on the field. Now also serving as the team’s infection control officer, he’s tasked with ensuring the safety of players off the field to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
In a recent Q&A with Colts.com writer Matt Taylor, Hammer discussed the new protocols that have been put in place at the Colts’ practice facility, the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Below is an excerpt from that Q&A between Taylor and Hammer.
Taylor: You might be the busiest guy I know right now as the point person at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center handling every health-related need surrounding the Colts. You name it, the virus has affected the team in terms of football operations: team and position meeting rooms moved all around, plexiglass installed in the locker room, how the team handles meals and snacks. What’s it like to be you right now?
Hammer: “Well, personally, it’s been a little bit of a challenge, but really, to be honest with you, it’s nothing really that much more different than a normal training camp is. I mean, it’s still long hours. Your kind of outside of football life gets put on hold for a few months, and you kind of just shoulder through it. But listening to your introduction there and everything like that, I just want people to make sure that they understand that while I might be a point person, so to speak, I really look at it as kind of I’m the tip of the iceberg. Underneath me, there are dozens of people who are making the plan that we’ve all gotten together and made actually work. I’m not the person that does all this stuff. It’s just I happen to be the name on the infection control officer.”
When the team named you its infection control officer, what did that entail for you? What was the scramble mode like for you putting your staff together to get all this in place?
Hammer: “Well, it was kind of a little bit of a ramp-up. As soon as the pandemic hit, honestly, we started looking at, ‘What are we going to need to do in this situation when we get back?’ Because we didn’t know when we were going to come back. At that point, it could have been just a month or two, and it would have been just staff people in the building. So, amongst our athletic trainers and our operations director, Jeff Brown, and everybody, the equipment guys, we got together and decided, ‘Alright, here’s the things that we might need to think about. And, what are we going to do about that?’ So, we kind of had a little bit of a ramp-up on that. Things got really crazy about June, early July with protocols that were coming out from the league office and the negotiations they were having with the players association and management council, where they were coming up with these things that we were going to need to provide answers for. So they gave us this framework, and then we had to make that framework kind of fit into our system here.”
Can you give us some details or examples of protocols just in terms of how nitty-gritty this thing is — things you’ve had to implement that the common fan doesn’t know or realize just how deep this goes?
Hammer: “Yeah, there’s a lot that’s already been out there in the media. I think people are pretty well versed on kind of the general idea of things. So, I think one of the things that people may not understand as well as some stuff is that we have these connexon proximity tracers that we walk around with all day back here in the restricted area of the building. What they do is, they’re not GPS devices; they’re just basically proximity devices. So, when I get near one, when I’m less than six feet from another puck, it starts tracking how long I’m in that zone. So, at the end of the day, these pucks are uploaded to a data system, and they can pull down who’s been in contact with who and for how long.
And what we’re looking for is the close contacts, so that we can kind of eliminate people; if somebody comes up as a positive test, then we can pull the people who are close contacts and pull them out for a little bit and make sure that they’re still OK before we let them hang around the building.”
To read the full Q&A with the Colts’ head athletic trainer Dave Hammer on the protocols put in place by the NFL franchise, click here.