Health Blog

Ready to play? Tips for Safety in Sports

Sports can bring significant benefits to children, such as offering opportunities for exercise, socialization, and learning how to be part of a community, all of which are crucial for their overall health. To help parents understand and navigate the risks, the CDC released information and considerations for youth sports during COVID-19.

Ready to play? Tips for Safety in Sports

As children prepare and get excited to go back to school in the Fall, parents might be wondering what to do about fall sports. The COVID-19 pandemic is very much still here, and taking the necessary precautions – wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing your hands frequently – is extremely important. On the other hand, kids also need to get out and experience the joy of being a kid again. For many, that means teamwork, friends, and sports. Sports can bring significant benefits to children, such as offering opportunities for exercise, socialization, and learning how to be part of a community, all of which are crucial for their overall health. To help parents understand and navigate the risks, the CDC released information and considerations for youth sports during COVID-19.

The first thing parents need to think about is the sport itself. Does the game require close contact? For instance, think about wrestling versus baseball. Or, is there a lot of shared equipment and gear between teammates and opponents? Remember, the less gear, the better. What about the players who aren't playing? For example, social distancing is easy for swimmers during a race, but they are often packed together on a pool deck when not racing.

Parents, here's what you need to know…

• Keep your children home if they are sick.
• Pack your child with personal equipment, if possible (gloves and bats)
• Make sure your child keeps 6 feet of space between other players when possible.
• Have your child wear a mask if possible.
• Ensure your child cleans their hands before and after practices, games, and using shared equipment.
• Teach your child to tell a coach or staff member if they don't feel well.

Make a Game Plan to Reduce Risk

There are several steps you and your family can take to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and reduce the spread while playing sports. Here is your rule of thumb: the more people a participant interacts with, the closer the physical interaction, the more sharing of equipment there is by multiple players, and the longer the interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Therefore, the risk of COVID-19 spread can be different, depending on the type of activity.

• Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with members of the same household
• Increasing Risk: Team-based practice
• More Risk: Within-team competition
• Higher Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area (e.g., city or county)
• Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas (e.g., outside county or state)

Suppose organizations cannot keep safety measures in place during the competition (for example, maintaining players six feet apart at all times). They may then consider limiting participation to within-team competition only—for instance, scrimmages between members of the same team or team-based practices. Similarly, suppose organizations are unable to put in place safety measures during team-based activities. In that case, they may choose individual or at-home activities, especially if any members of the team are at an increased risk for severe illness.

Prepare Before You Play

• Pack your child with supplies to help them and others stay healthy—for example, masks (bring extra), hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, and drinking water.
• Prioritize outdoor activities over indoor activities and stay within your local area as much as possible. If using an indoor facility, let the previous group leave the facility before entering and allow time for cleaning and disinfecting.
• Check your child's league's COVID-19 prevention practices before you go to make sure they have steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
• If your child is at an increased risk for severe illness or has existing health conditions, take extra precautions and preventive actions during the activity, or choose individual or at-home activities.

Take Steps to Protect Yourself and Others

Stay home if sick
• If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, has been diagnosed with COVID-19, is waiting for COVID-19 test results, or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, they should stay home and not participate in any sports.

Have smaller team sizes
• Sports with a large number of players on a team may increase the likelihood of spread compared to sports with fewer team members. Ensure the coaches limit the team to a core group of participants by restricting non-team players from joining when your team is short players and not adding new members during the season.

Reduce physical closeness between players when possible
• Tell your child to maintain at least 6 feet between other teammates, competitors, and officials while actively participating.
• Encourage them to focus on building individual skills, like batting, dribbling, kicking, and strength training.
• Tell them to avoid high fives, handshakes, fist bumps, or hugs.
• Make sure your child's team keeps space between players in the practice areas, including on the sideline, dugout, and bench.
• Have your child wait in the car or away from the playing area until just before the warm-up period or the beginning of the game.
• Avoid congregating in the parking lot or near the field before or after games with families and teammates. If it is impossible to avoid gathering, practice social distancing by ensuring at least 6 feet between participants. If social distancing is impossible, wear a mask whenever possible to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

Space out spectators by 6 feet
• As a parent, do your part and limit nonessential visitors, spectators, and volunteers. Ensure they wear masks and maintain social distancing.

Wear a mask if possible
• Have your child wear a mask if feasible, especially when it is challenging to stay less than 6 feet apart from other people or indoors, for example in close contact sports like basketball.
• Lower intensity sports: Emphasize wearing masks and practicing social distancing for lower intensity sports.
• Higher intensity sports: People who are engaged in high-intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a mask if it causes difficulty breathing. If unable to wear a mask, consider conducting the activity in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where it is possible to maintain physical distance from others.
• In situations where you might raise your voices, such as shouting or chanting, we strongly encourage wearing masks.
• For young athletes, parents, coaches, and sports administrators should decide if the kids need to wear a mask.
• It is unknown if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend the use of face shields for everyday activities or as a substitute for masks.

Minimize sharing of equipment or gear
• Encourage your child to bring their own equipment if possible, like gloves, balls, and helmets.
• Limit your child's use of frequently touched surfaces on the field, court, or play surface.
• Pack your child with their own water to minimize the use and touching of drinking fountains.
• Teach your child to clean and disinfect shared items between use.
• Make sure your child doesn't share towels, clothing, or any items used to wipe faces or hands, food, water bottles, and utensils.

Minimize spitting. Cover your coughs and sneezes.
• When coughing or sneezing, teach your child to use a tissue or the inside of their elbow. Used tissues should be thrown away, and hands washed immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol. If soap and water are not readily available, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used.

Wash hands
• Tell your child to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol. Have them wash their hands before and after they play and before adjusting their mask.

Limit travel outside of your area
• Consider competing against teams in your local area like your neighborhood, town, or community.

Coaches Checklist

• Send a welcome email or call parents (for youth players) and/or players. Inform them about actions that the sports program will take to protect players. Remind them to stay home if sick or if they have been around someone who is ill.
• Be a role model. Wear a mask and encourage family members, fans, officials, and sports staff to wear one during practices and games.
• Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to players before and after practice/game and encourage them to wash their hands with soap and water.
• Educate players about covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow. Discourage spitting.
• Remind players about social distancing and identify markers (such as signage or tape on the floor).
• Encourage your players to focus on building their individual skills and cardiovascular conditioning to limit close contact with other players.
• Check with your sports administrator to make sure they are following cleaning and disinfection recommendations. Be sure to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on field, court, or play surface, such as drinking fountains, at least daily or between use. Don't forget to clean and disinfect shared equipment as often as you can.

With COVID-19, team sports won't be the same, and for many children and families, this won't be very reassuring. But if we can find a way to be active and together safely, it could help families get through this extraordinary time.



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