Malika Andrews | ESPN Staff Writer
When Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas set about assembling a front-office staff in Minnesota in 2019, he was insistent that the group include a doctor who specialized in medicine and technology. Rosas was looking for someone analytical who could help the Timberwolves use data to optimize the health of players.
Rosas eventually hired Dr. Robby Sikka, who has a background in anesthesiology, sports medicine research and returning to play after injury.
“Whenever I got a job, that was the type of guy that I wanted in my front office,” Rosas said. “He allows us to attack blind spots that are critical to our players.”
At the time, Rosas could not have predicted that Sikka’s job would include combating a virus that spiraled into a global pandemic and caused the NBA to shut down. Now, Sikka and the Mayo Clinic — an academic medical center headquartered in Rochester, Minnesota — are spearheading a leaguewide study that aims to establish what percentage of NBA players, coaches, executives and staff have developed antibodies to the coronavirus.
The initiative, which is supported by the league office and the players’ association, is expected to have the participation of all 30 teams.
“We are learning about this disease,” Sikka said. “We have learned a lot in two months. So if we can take the next two months, learn on the fly, mitigate risk, then we can move pretty quickly to do the right things to have safe play.”
As practice facilities begin to open around the league, NBA officials are continuing to seek information about best practices to mitigate risk of infection for players and staff. Sikka, who is one of 10 people on the NBA’s sports science committee, has become one of the league’s resources.
Assessing the prevalence of antibodies in NBA personnel will help teams identify which people might have a lower risk of contracting COVID-19. The study is expected to be completed in June.