5 Tips to Keep Kids Safe when Returning to Sports

1. Ease kids back into physical activity gradually before the sport season starts

Kids have been spending a lot more time at home and sitting at computers for school than in regular years. Relative inactivity leads to decreased cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength and endurance and loss of sport-specific skills. Parents should know, that increasing the load and demand on their child’s body without adequate time for conditioning and recovery, raises the risk of injury.

Before they start sports, all kids should have a pre-participation physical exam. At this pre-participation physical exam, ask the medical provider to discuss with you and your child a schedule to guide a gradual increase in activity. Children should return to sports at 25 to 50% of the volume and intensity at which they participated previously. Each week, volume should be increased by 10% so that, by 4-6 weeks, the student athlete is back in performance shape.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of sports injuries due to the rapid escalation of sports intensity. We can prevent these injuries.” said, Dr. Corey Dean, Pediatrician and Sports Medicine Specialist at St. Joe’s and IHA.

  1. Be COVID-19 safe during practice and games

In March, 2021, the spread of COVID-19 has risen 105% among persons aged 10 to 19 in Michigan. Additionally, there are 135 identified outbreaks among minors participating in school and club sports in Michigan.

To prevent COVID-19 during sports participation, athletes should maintain physical distance as much as possible. Wear cloth face coverings at all times during group training and competition, especially on the sideline, in dugouts, and during team chats. Due to possible safety concerns, masks can be removed while participating in some sports, such as water sports, gymnastics and wrestling. However, a mask should still be worn when the athlete is not actively engaged in competition or is on the sidelines.

All kids with a history of a positive COVID-19 test, regardless of whether they had symptoms, should be screened for chest pain, shortness of breath, syncope (fainting), and palpitations during a physical exam by there primary care physician. Children who have had moderate or severe symptoms of COVID-19, like fever greater than three days, hypoxia needing oxygen in the hospital, etc. should be referred to a cardiologist per the American Academy of pediatricians.

Avoid behaviors like huddles, high-fives, fist bumps, handshakes, sharing food or drink with teammates, cheering, chanting, or spitting. Store personal equipment 6 to 8 feet away from other teammates equipment. Make sure to bring your own water bottle and your own towel to be used only by you. Sanitize hands before and after using shared equipment like balls, bats etc. Do not got to practice or a game if you are not feeling well. Make sure to tell the coach if you’re not feeling well and leave practice or the game as soon as safely possible.

Avoid large group gathering after sporting events or practices. If you do gather after a sporting event or practice, remember to wear your mask, socially distance and don’t share food or drink with others.

3. Clean up after practice and games.

Sanitize with 60% alcohol based hand sanitizer or wash hands for 20 seconds. Be Sure to wash practice clothes and towel thoroughly and replace facemasks. Clean sports equipment and water bottle.

4. Get tested for COVID-19 regularly.

All middle school and high school athletes aged 13 to 19 must be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis as required by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Testing is recommended before any inter-team competition, especially before players come in to close contact with players from outside the local community. Regular testing allows for better understanding of the risk to student athletes and supports contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in sports.

5. Where are the facemasks?

Athletes, coaches and other team personnel must wear a face mask at all times unless participating in a sport in which masks may pose a safety concern (wrestling, water sports, gymnastics, etc.). Face masks must be worn by all individuals while not engaged in active participation. Facemasks must cover the nose and the mouth at all times to be fully protective. Any cloth face covering that becomes saturated with sweat or water should be changed immediately. Having a back up cloth mask is helpful. You are your child’s best advocate. If you see other athletes or coaches not wearing masks or wearing masks improperly speak up and kindly remind them to wear a mask or make sure their mask is properly covering their mouth and nose. Parents and spectators should always wear a facemask while at sporting events. Wearing masks minimizes the spread of COVID-19 and is critical for safe participation in sports.

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