A Playbook for Safer Post‐COVID‐19 Youth Sports Participation
With most schools going back to full‐time, in‐person classes and sports activities, Northwest Orthopaedic Specialists wants to share things to consider when returning to sports and avoiding injury.
Returning From the Great Pause
COVID‐19 rates are dropping as more adults and youth get vaccinated. It means that youth sports will most likely return to normal (or close to it), with longer seasons, longer games, and increased spectator capacity. Many athletes might have missed out on regular workouts during the shutdown and will return to their teams less conditioned. How should parents and athletes best prepare for safe post‐COVID sports?
Above all, we encourage you to get vaccinated. COVID‐19 vaccines are proven over 90% effective in stopping transmission of COVID‐19. On the rare occasion when a post‐vaccine infection occurs, the symptoms are much less. Vaccinations are the foremost way to play safer or participate in life in general.
Maintain Physical Distancing
When on the bench or the sidelines, maintaining physical distance from coaches, staff, and other players is both smart and kind. Six feet of space reduces COVID‐19 transmission. While physical distancing is not always possible, the more often you can take a couple of steps away from others, the more you reduce exposure.
Practice Hand Hygiene and Sanitize Gear
COVID‐19 can be transmitted through surfaces that contain the virus in addition to physical contact with someone COVID‐19 positive. Teamwork and camaraderie are essential to sports, and there is a lot of physical contact. Sanitizing sports equipment after during use with 60% or greater alcohol wipes and continued hand hygiene with hand sanitizer and handwashing) reduces transmission. Don’t share water bottles, helmets, gloves, shoes, towels, or clothing with others. When you get home, immediately wash athletic clothing in hot water.
Unvaccinated Participants and Spectators Should Mask‐up
School districts, clubs, tournaments, and events have specific making guidelines that may change over time. If you’re unclear, it’s always a good idea to mask up when possible. COVID‐19 transmission by mouth and nose is common, and masking reduces the likelihood of transmission. Unvaccinated athletes should maintain mask wearing when on the sidelines or not actively participating.
If Health Risks Exist, Consider Sitting this Season Out
If unvaccinated student‐athletes have asthma, diabetes, or other health problems that increase their COVID‐19 risk, talk to their doctor about whether they should participate or sit this season out. Unvaccinated individuals with pre‐existing health risks are better off lessening their exposure to others, both on and off the playing field.
Don’t Play When Sick
It is especially critical for athletes to limit outside contact and avoid large groups. If one athlete on the team gets COVID‐19, the entire team may have to quarantine and forfeit any scheduled games during that time. If an athlete isn’t feeling well, especially if they are experiencing any COVID‐19 symptoms such as fever, sore throat, runny nose, headache, or body aches, they should not participate until they test negative or have fully quarantined. Trying to participate when ill is never a good idea.
Safer Sports Means More Than COVID‐19 Prevention
A safe return to youth sports isn’t solely about preventing COVID‐19. After the long shutdown and periods of inactivity, it’s important to increase flexibility and rebuild your fitness and endurance.
Get Fit and Ready—Outdoors
Months of sports cancellations meant many people lost some of their fitness, strength, and flexibility. Before actively engaging in fall sports, get your body back in the game. Begin and maintain a fitness program to bring your cardiovascular system back online. Sports‐specific exercises and stretching will develop strength and flexibility while helping you avoid strain and sprains, resulting in better performance and reduced injuries. Outdoor conditioning will also reduce your exposure to COVID‐19. Don’t skip your sports physical, especially this year when we were more sedentary.
Create a Pre‐ and Post‐Participation Routine
Make sure to follow a warm‐up and cool‐down routine on the court or playing field. Warm‐up routines prepare your cardiovascular system for physical stress. Engaging your muscles and joints before practice and competition allow them to handle the activity’s motion and stress. After extreme exertion, a cooldown routine will help reduce muscle tightness and soreness.
See a Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Doctor
NW Orthopaedics hopes the region’s athletes successfully and safely return to sports. If something unfortunate happens on the field, track, or court, we’re here for you. Our Express Walk‐in locations diagnose and treat sports‐related injuries and have on‐site x‐rays. Athletes (and anyone with a bone, joint, or muscle injury) can be quickly seen by the region’s most experienced orthopedic experts, no appointment necessary.