NBA Issues Memo on Policy Regarding H1N1 Virus

BY: IRA WINDERMAN

Sun Sentinel

Oct. 19–MIAMI — The most important statistic for the Miami Heat, and, for that matter, the NBA this season will be 98.6.

And, no, we’re not talking about team scoring averages.

Just body temperature.

Anything higher combined with sniffles, sneezes or wheezes and, well, you’re out.

The NBA last week issued a memo to its teams stating a league policy regarding the H1N1 virus, amid concerns about a potential swine flu breakout.

Simply stated, if a player exhibits flu-like symptoms, he must be sent to a doctor. If there is fever, he should not be allowed to appear at games or travel with his team.

Yes, even Wade, LeBron and Kobe.

“The key word,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said, “is fever. Once the fever subsides, until it is felt he is not contagious, the player is being asked to stay away.”

While there won’t be thermometer police at the scorers’ table, the NBA is demanding its teams practice vigilance.

“There’s going to be a lot more awareness and everybody being judicious about it, and that’s just the way it has to go,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Monday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. “We try to educate them as much as possible. We have the hand wipes everywhere in this building.”

There is a catch, however. It’s not as easy as popping a Sudafed and heading back to work.

Among the substances on the NBA’s list of banned “steroids, performance-enhancing drug and masking agents” are Pseudoephedrine and Ephedrine, eliminating some of the most common decongestants from the equation.

That, Heat guard Dwyane Wade said, makes flu season a bit more complex for players, with team trainer Jay Sabol effectively put on speed dial.

“Ever since they came out with the banned list, I don’t take any medicine unless it comes from Jay,” Wade said. “So even if I’m at home and it’s one of my off days, I will call Jay and I will ask him what I can take, because I don’t want to get into that position.”

However, if a substance on the banned list is deemed the best course of treatment and is cleared for use in individual cases, then an ensuing positive test would not be deemed a violation.

In the NBA’s flu memo, an educational session was suggested for players.

“Jay’s been going through the education process with the guys and it will continue to happen,” Spoelstra said.

Already this month, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster was ravaged by Influenza A, with swine flu a strain of Influenza A. That had LeBron James and several teammates sidelined for days. Caution, of course, is easier to come by during the preseason, when health counts far more than scores.

“Would it have happened if it was the regular season?” Spoelstra said of Cavaliers coach Mike Brown taking such a vigilant approach. “But, apparently, it will.”

That could lead to players attempting to hide those sniffles, to avoid the all-incriminating thermometer.

“Everyone,” Wade said, “wants to play. It will be interesting.”

Beasley sidelined

Minor thumb and shoulder injuries kept Michael Beasley out of Monday’s practice. Both were sustained during defensive drills, with Spoelstra hopeful of having the second-year forward back on the court Tuesday . . .

Wade (bruised calf) ran through some drills, with his status for Wednesday’s exhibition against the Grizzlies still uncertain . . . Center Jermaine O’Neal (groin, shoulder) went through Monday’s entire practice . . . Guard Chris Quinn returned for shooting drills after missing more than a week with a sprained ankle.