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.
Acknowledgement of infection risks
As we mention the benefit of sport and social interaction, we also recognize there are ongoing infection risks and concerns regarding “COVID-19.” The decision to participate in sports and spectate at sporting events will be dependent on athletes, families, and sports clubs in concordance with the above-mentioned 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-2and potentially spreading the virus to family members and the community.
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.
Phased return to sports
First and foremost, 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.
Currently, only sports that can maintain physical distancing are allowed and state/local government orders and directives should be followed. There is an increasing number of cases throughout the Kansas, Missouri and Kansas City Metro area, including in the adolescent population, which is concerning. Currently, we recommend no player be within 6 feet of each other, groups should be no more than 10 individuals including coaches, and all machines/equipment consistently be cleaned.
The following criteria should be used based upon the Opening Up America Again:
- Stable or downward trajectory of influenza-like illness reported within a 14-day period AND a downward trajectory of COVID-like syndrome cases within a 14-day period.
- Stable or downward trajectory of documented cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period or a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period.
- Hospitals can treat all patients without crisis care and there is a robust testing program in place for all at-risk health care workers, including emerging antibody testing.
As each city, county and state slowly return to sports participation, we highly recommend athletes have a “phased approach” to decrease risk of community spread and gradual increase in physical activity to decrease risk of injury.
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.
Since practices and competitions have been decreased, many athletes are deconditioned, 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.
Plan your pre-season for post-pandemic
In the early phases, individual workouts at home, with household members or via virtual practices with teammates online may be considered. As your state, county or local governments allow, a slow return to practice and competition can occur. Be mindful as a minimum of 6 feet of physical distancing should be maintained.
Do not attend OR participate in group/team sports or practice if:
- You are feeling ill. Symptoms of the coronavirus can include fever (temperature of 100.0 as defined by the CDC), cough, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms as outlined by the CDC website.
- If you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the prior 14 days.
- If unsure about whether to attend or participate in practice due to possible symptoms OR exposure, it is recommended you contact your health care provider.