He was recently invited to join the NCAA COVID-19 advisory board.
Dr. Cauwels, together with other medical professionals in each region nationwide, will be tasked with helping conferences, institutions, coaches and athletes get back to sports safely.
How it started
Dr. Cauwels was invited to join the board through Patty Viverito, senior associate commissioner for the Missouri Valley Conference, who is heavily involved in the NCAA Division I Council among other NCAA-related committees.
“The NCAA really looked out and said, ‘Hey, we need to know more than how Duke University is going to handle this, or how Ohio State University is going to handle this, or how the University of Alabama is going to handle this,'” Dr. Cauwels told Sanford Health News. “They said, ‘We want a picture of how we’re going to handle it in other places.'”
While many schools in the Missouri Valley Conference sit within the area Sanford Health serves, Dr. Cauwels says it just made sense to provide medical guidance for sports in the Upper Midwest region.
Sanford has a large presence at the intersection of health care and sports. It’s had a sports performance program — Sanford POWER — for more than 20 years, owns and operates a 500-acre sports complex in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and is among the national leaders in studying concussions in youth football. That’s in addition to providing sports medicine coverage for nearly 100 organizations across the professional, college, high school and youth levels.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization’s leaders have provided guidance to school districts and superintendents across the region. In fact, Dr. Cauwels sits on the South Dakota High School Activities Association task force.
Why this is an important role
“I think the important part for us is to, number one, understand that getting back to athletics is safe,” Dr. Cauwels said. “There’s some things we have to do to make sure it’s safe, and that’s part of my job as a physician.”
He referenced the state of mental health in our region and the changes the year 2020 has brought to the way we live, work and interact.
“Humans are social animals; they need a little bit of that interaction,” he said. “I can tell you that many of our video visits are for mental health concerns. People are still anxious. People are still depressed. I’m not saying that football is a fix for depression, but I am saying that the more we can get back to what people considered normal life and as we can learn how to do that — while I’m wearing a mask or while I’m social distancing — the better off people are going to feel and move through the things they need to.”
What he’s looking forward to
A sports guy himself, this is an opportunity he knows he’ll enjoy.
“I’m looking forward to be being able to enter the room and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’d love to do from the standpoint of South Dakota, North Dakota, parts of Minnesota for getting back to activity,'” Dr. Cauwels said. “As long as we can do everything we can to keep people safe and keep people low-risk and get back to the activity we all enjoy, I think we’re better off.”
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