NFHS releases high school sports guidelines during coronavirus pandemic

Dive Brief:

  • The National Federation of State High School Associations recently released guidelines detailing three phases of reopening for high school sports.
  • During all phases, it’s suggested that coaches and officials may wear masks. The first phase will require temperature checks before workouts, no more than 10 people gathering at one time and that “pods” of the same 5-10 students workout together throughout the phase. There will be no locker room use, and 6-foot distances must be maintained.
  • Temperature checks will continue during the second phase, but up to 50 people can gather for outdoor workouts. Socially distant locker room use is also approved in phases two and three. In phase three, 50 or more people can gather indoors, but a three-foot distance must be maintained when not participating in the competition.

Dive Insight:

Until vaccines are readily available or herd immunity has been achieved, school sports will look different. Masks will be required during some sports, but full face masks will not be allowed during competitions. If a team member tests positive, the entire team may need to be quarantined. Schools must also plan for periodic closures as individual flare-ups erupt.

Additionally, the NFHS document organizes sports in categories of lower, moderate and higher risk, advising that lower risk sports resume at phase 2 and moderate risk at phase 3. Presumably, higher risk sports are not recommended until the virus is fully under control.

  • Lower risk: : Individual running events, throwing events, individual swimming, golf, weightlifting, alpine skiing, sideline cheer, single sculling, cross country running with staggered starts
  • Moderate risk: Basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, water polo, gymnastics, ice hockey, field hockey, tennis, swimming relays, pole vault, high jump, long jump, girls lacrosse, crew with two or more rowers in shell, 7-on-7 football
  • Higher risk: Wrestling, football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance

In Boise, Idaho, high schools are preparing to put students back in practice by June 1, in accordance with Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Rebounds plan. Games can’t be scheduled until Idaho completes stage four of the plan, which could happen by June 27. Students will not be able to travel outside of the immediate area for tournaments or camps, nor can visiting teams attend camps in Boise.

Infectious disease experts question whether reopening sports is wise at all. Dr. Richard Jackson, a former CDC official and emeritus at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health said in a Los Angeles Times article that young and fit athletes are still susceptible to complications if they develop the virus. In South Korea, widespread testing is allowing Korean Baseball Organization to resume training and scrimmages, but no spectators are allowed in the stadium.

Comparatively, Major League Baseball officials are putting together a plan but contend safety is the top priority, and a reopening would require adherence to stringent restrictions. Quarantining entire teams could happen if one player tests positive.

Having proven treatments in place and proof of antibodies are ultimately the way back to the field, experts say.

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