Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, many extracurricular activities have been put on the sidelines. Physical distancing regulations to curb the spread of the virus have discouraged team play and instead promoted no-contact or individual sports. As a result, the sports season has been on the back burner for quite some time.
But with vaccines being available for children and adolescents ages 12 and up, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) reckons that vaccinated kids can now safely return to their respective sports. Even so, precautionary measures should still be observed to ensure optimal health and safety during the sports season.
Sports Season: Best Health and Safety Measures
NATA provides parents with tips to keep their kids safe from COVID-19 while engaging in contact or no-contact sports.
Before Sports Season
For over a year since the spread of the virus, children have been shielded at home and kept safe from infection. But as schools reopen and sports season commences, they are now going outdoors more, which carries the increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
Before allowing your child to participate in sports practice or tournaments, make sure that you understand the risks and are aware of the measures to take to keep them safe. Talk to your child about COVID so that they too can take the necessary precautions.
You may also want to consider bringing your child to their pediatrician for a physical exam to ensure that they are physically fit and can participate in sports. Remember that staying at home during lockdowns may have altered their bodies’ ability to endure physical activity. If your child has not been active for a while, ease them in with exercise or conditioning programs.
Children who have a history of testing positive for COVID-19 or exhibit any symptoms prior to sports season should not engage in physical activity until they recover. Speak to their pediatrician, who may recommend a cardiac screening or physical exam before they can clear the child for practice.
In the days leading to their scheduled training or tournament, pay attention to how your child is feeling. If they exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19, it’s best to forego their attendance and keep them home. If they only show symptoms during practice, instruct them to inform their coach and ask to be picked up and sent home.
Before practice, provide your child with a face mask and pack their bags with a hand sanitizer, tissues, towel, and water bottle. Make sure that their belongings are labeled to avoid getting mixed up with those belonging to other athletes.
Even if your child is vaccinated, other athletes attending practice may not have received their complete doses. Teach your child to protect themselves and unvaccinated teammates by wearing masks and avoiding the following:
- Team huddles
- High-fives, fist bumps, or handshakes
- Sharing food or drinks
- Sneezing or blowing their nose without tissues
- Leaving personal equipment exposed
- Sharing equipment, such as towels, and masks.
Have your children wash their hands with soap when they can or apply hand sanitizer every now and then, ideally during water breaks and after using sports equipment. They should also know to keep their masks on when arriving and leaving the playing field, as well as in crowded indoor spaces.
Immediately after your child gets home from practice, they should take a shower to wash away germs and bacteria. If not possible, they should wash their hands with soap and water. Face masks, towels, and uniforms should be tossed into the washing machine as soon as possible. Also remember to clean and sanitize personal equipment, shoes, water bottles, etc.
Participating in Sports Season Safely
Living with the COVID-19 pandemic calls for a “new normal” that changes the way we go about our daily lives — and sports season is unexempted. But that doesn’t mean we should stay away from sports and physical activity completely. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Especially after being on lockdown for so long, we need to get back on track with exercise to maintain optimal health and wellness — but with a few changes to make way for health and safety precautions amid the pandemic. Take these tips and enable your child to get back to sports while reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19.