Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many things have changed. Everyone’s wearing masks, there are hand sanitizer stations everywhere, and everyone’s forgoing crowds, including sporting events. Professional sports are still playing, but the stadiums are empty except for necessary personnel. While many are happy that these major organizations have returned to play, professionals aren’t the only ones who want play to resume.
Many amateur sports leagues have also started their seasons. From youth leagues to adult programs, many different recreational leagues are back in action. Just like professional sports, recreational leagues have their own list of mandates they need to follow to keep playing.
As for everything COVID-related, following state and local health guidelines is first and foremost on every list of to-dos and to-don’ts. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared some additional guiding points to help keep players, spectators, and communities safe.
For example, the risk of spreading the virus depends on the type of activity. Team sports played indoors like basketball are going to be a higher risk of infection than a single-player game played outdoors like golf. Longer activities can increase the risk of spreading, as well. The CDC shared this range of low- to high-risk activities to help us understand the level of hazard in youth sports.
- Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with family members.
- Increasing Risk: Team-based practice.
- More Risk: Within-team competition.
- Even More Risk: Full competition between teams from the same local geographic area.
- Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas.
The CDC has yet to release specific guidelines for adult sports leagues, but they encourage organizations to review the youth sports literature and base their game plan on that. However, they do share tips to help those returning to sports better prepare themselves:
- Bring supplies to help you 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 participating in outdoor activities over indoor activities and stay within your local area as much as possible.
- If using an indoor facility, allow previous groups to leave the facility before entering with your team. If possible, allow time for cleaning and/or disinfecting.
- Check the 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 you are at an increased risk for severe illness or have existing health conditions, take extra precautions and preventive actions during the activity, or choose individual or at-home activities.
Additionally, some facilities are limiting players and spectators to one area other than the fields/courts to try and contain the level of contamination, as well as keeping logs of who enters the building, so they can notify accordingly if there’s a positive test. There are also strict rules against spitting on or around the area of play, some even resulting in a penalty.
Assessing Potential Risk
As mentioned before, the risk level of different activities varies. Here’s a list of things to consider before returning:
- Physical closeness of players, and the length of time that players are close to each other or to staff.
- Amount of necessary touching of shared equipment and gear.
- Ability to engage in social distancing while not actively engaged in play.
- Age and pre-existing risk of the player.
- Size of the team.
- Nonessential visitors, spectators, volunteers.
- Travel outside of the local community.
What You Need to Know
- Stay home if sick.
- Players should bring their own equipment, like gloves and bats, if possible.
- Reduce physical closeness and keep 6 feet of space between players when possible.
- Wear a mask if possible.
- Players should clean their hands before and after practices, games, and sharing equipment.
- Tell a coach or staff member if you don’t feel well.
Whether it’s just for fun or for the championship, sports are a great way to get out and get active. However, it’s important to consider the risk vs. reward in today’s current atmosphere. Using these guidelines, as well as those of state and local health officials, we can all enjoy the fun of competition safely.