While COVID-19 has changed our everyday lives, those of us with athletes in the house know the anticipation of getting back in the game is high. As a pediatric sports medicine physician, I’ve been flooded with questions from concerned parents about how and when their kids should safely return to their youth sports teams.
There is understandable confusion and questions on the impact of resuming participation in youth sports. As a result, a team of sports medicine and infection prevention experts at Children’s Wisconsin and UW Health have come up with some guidelines and considerations to help navigate the return to youth sports in Wisconsin. Keep reading for an overview of our guidelines and click here for the full text.
At Children’s Wisconsin, we believe that all young people should engage in daily exercise, fitness or sports to support their overall physical and mental well-being. We must return with safety as the number one priority — not only safety of our young athletes, but also for parents, family, coaches and officials.
The following recommendations from our team are intended as a general guide for parents, youth athletic teams and organizations to help transition safely back into sports. Municipality and county regulations must be satisfied before considering resuming athletics, so always consult with the county and/or state health department beforehand.
For return to high school sanctioned sports and training, please refer to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA). It’s important to note that as of May 28, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends consulting with state and local health officials before resuming participation in youth sports due to the many challenges of containing the virus in group settings.
Coaches and parents
As a parent, coach or youth sports organization, we should ask these questions when determining how to safely allow our kids to return to play:
We can’t rely on our kids to enforce the protocols that we determine appropriate. We need to also monitor and instruct them. This includes items like identifying a point person for all health communications, implementing pre-activity screenings, parent drop off and pick up strategies, distribution of beverages and snacks as well as wearing personal protective equipment.
Beyond asking the key questions above, our team put together a comprehensive plan that includes considerations to help keep our athletes free from illness and injury, and recommended phases for getting back in the game.
While the risk of transmitting something like COVID-19 during a game is difficult to determine, we have categorized sports based on low, moderate and high in alignment with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) stratification. The risk assessments can help inform how youth sports begin again.
For our full guidelines and more information on risk assessment, click here.
I’ve noticed two speeds when it comes to returning to youth sports — zero and 100. And while zero represents the safest option, it may not be realistic for everyone to refrain from sending their kids back to their beloved sports indefinitely. At the same time, full speed ahead can be downright dangerous.
In order for us to safely resume youth sports, we should consider the risk assessment and begin each sport dependent on its risk factors. In order to progress to the next set of sports, we would need to know certain truths including the rate of infection isn’t increasing, there hasn’t been an outbreak within the team (including an outbreak in the team’s households), maintaining rigorous cleaning practices and more.
Now and always, Children’s Wisconsin is available for parents — virtually and in person. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your child’s pediatrician by phone, MyChart message, schedule an appointment or talk to a pediatric care provider through our Online Urgent Care video visits.