As coaches, parents, and players prepare for the fall sports season, the coronavirus pandemic has been—literally—a game changer. Federal, state, and local governments, health authorities, and athletic associations are continually modifying guidelines for sports participation in response to fluctuating COVID-19 case numbers and new research findings.
If that sounds like a lot to keep track of—it is. But Kettering Health Network’s Sports Medicine providers are staying abreast of all mandates and recommendations to help ensure the safest conditions and protocols possible.
“We mesh all the various guidelines together to provide the safest measures for athletes,” says Lori Oda, manager of athletic trainers for Kettering Health Network. “Athletic trainers are used to adapting quickly to changing circumstances.” Whether it’s an injury that affects an athlete’s ability to compete or severe weather that disrupts a game, “they are programmed to manage change and get players back on the field in a safe environment,” Lori says.
General COVID-19 guidelines that govern all sports are in place, along with additional protocols for specific sports. The rules and recommendations are highly detailed and updated as needed. In addition to hygiene and sanitation protocols, the many other preventive measures listed by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) include
- Maintaining physical distancing and requiring face coverings while not on the field or court of play;
- Reducing or greatly eliminating unnecessary travel;
- Reducing or eliminating sharing of common equipment, and
- Reducing or eliminating contact frequency with athletes from schools or programs outside of their own league/conference or normal competition sphere.
Athletic trainers also have new safety measures to follow when working with your child, such as wearing masks and frequently cleaning high-touch surfaces in the athletic training rooms.
While training, practices, and competitions might not look or feel the same, “all of the guidelines are to ensure the athletes are safe,” Lori says.
Should my child participate?
If you are hesitant about your child participating in a contact sport because your child or a family member has a compromised immune system, consult your health care provider. As an alternative to your athlete’s usual sport, Lori suggests participating in a non-contact sport such as tennis, volleyball, or golf as a way to still get cardiovascular exercise.
“It’s also good for a child’s mental health,” she says. “In fact, for some kids, sports are their only outlet. They need that participation.” And with months of social distancing having restricted children’s usual activities and opportunities to spend time with friends, right now many young athletes might need the mental health boost sports can provide.
What hasn’t changed
OHSAA requires a new physical every year, and now is the time to take care of that. Kettering Health Network Sports Medicine providers offer appointments for individuals, as well as blocks of appointment times reserved for athletes from schools and other organizations the network partners with. Bring the physical form and any additional paperwork your school or organization requires.
Finally, amid all the coronavirus concerns, make sure your athlete follows sun and heat precautions as well: Wear sunscreen, stay hydrated, and—especially if wearing a mask or football leggings—be aware of signs of heat illness such as thirst, clammy skin, or lack of sweat. “Children’s bodies don’t regulate heat as well as an adult’s,” Lori says.
For current rules and guidelines, visit the websites below, or ask your organization’s athletic director or athletic trainer.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/youth-sports.html
National Federation of High School Associations: https://www.nfhs.org/media/3812287/2020-nfhs-guidance-for-opening-up-high-school-athletics-and-activities-nfhs-smac-may-15_2020-final.pdf