Purpose: The purpose of this document is to promote the health of youth athletes, coaches and staff by providing recommendations for a safe return to sport and physical activity after the coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, “COVID-19” pandemic.
Given the changing environment, recommendations and guidelines may change at any time. This document has been most recently updated on February 12, 2021.
This document is a general information resource and should not be treated as medical advice to participate in any activity. These ideas are meant to supplement considerations by your state and local governing bodies and Health Department NOT meant to replace them. Rely on information at your own risk, consult the most up to date recommendations and your own state and local public health officials. Speak with your physicians about any specific issues or questions that you may have.
Acknowledgement of infection risks
The decision to participate in sports and spectate at sporting events will be dependent on athletes, families, and sports clubs in concordance with rules and regulations from authorities. Participants and spectators should understand that social interaction and congregation increase the risk of individuals becoming ill from infection with SARS-CoV-2 and potentially spreading the virus to family members and the community.
White the rates of vaccination are increasing, the risk of spread remains. Please remember to wear masks, wash your hands and distance as much as possible, even if you or a family member has been vaccinated.
If you have an underlying health condition, there may be an increased risk of participating in sports. Please contact your regular doctor before restarting your sports. Current known risk factors include increasing age, obesity with body mass index above 30, chronic lung disease including moderate, severe or uncontrolled asthma, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, sickle cell disease, heart conditions and the immunocompromised.
Benefit of sports and responsibilities of the athlete
The participation in sport has known health benefits, including promoting physical fitness and mental wellness. Sports provide a social construct and interaction which is necessary in a time of uncertainty for our athletes. It is widely recognized that physical activity, performed for the right amount of time and intensity can provide benefits to the immune system. In addition, sports can provide a template for young athletes to learn concepts of teamwork, leadership, work ethic and integrity.
With these recognized benefits, we propose and recommend the following as schools, clubs and individuals consider returning to sport.
Athletes, families and participants in sports have a social and moral responsibility to report symptoms of COVID-19. Self-reporting all symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will not only decrease the spread but will also help keep athletes playing their sport. Coaches, administrators and parents should continue to encourage athletes to self-report any symptom.
Phased return to sports
All guidance, rules and regulations regarding the return of sports must be followed as set forth by the national, state, or local governments and health departments. All involved with making the decisions for return to sports should be up to date on government guidance and CDC recommendations. All facilities, coaches, leagues and tournament directors should monitor recommendations and directives set forth by national, state and local levels.
A thoughtful approach to exercise gives athletes a chance to acclimatize to the temperature and the intensity/duration of practices. This slow ramp up of exercise can decrease the injury risk and heat illness, in particular if they have an extended time away from sport.
In individuals who did not play fall, winter or club sports, where practices and competitions have potentially been decreased, or have had an extended time away from sport, there is increased risk of deconditioning, putting the athlete at much higher risk for injury if pushed too hard too fast. Overtraining, defined as prolonged or excessive repetitive activity/workouts in efforts to “catch up,” does not allow the body to adjust and recover, which can lead to decreased performance and/or increased risk injury.