Participating in Sports Safely with COVID-19

Participation in sports has many known benefits for physical, mental and social well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way athletes participate and what a typical game or match may look like. While there is an inherent risk of the spread of COVID-19 with social interaction and congregation at events, there are things that can be done to make sports safer.

Here are some things to keep in mind if your child is participating in sports:

Be Informed and Practice Prevention

A decision to participate or resume activity in athletic events involves many factors to consider:

  • Information and guidance from area legal and health authorities.
  • Family and sports club policies and procedures.
  • The health of each individual athlete.

Wear masks at sports events or activities whenever possible and appropriate. This includes athletes of all ages, coaches, spectators and parents. Masks should also be changed out if sweaty or soiled.

Continue to practice social distancing whenever possible on the sidelines, locker rooms, and other areas. Regularly clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces and equipment and reduce shared equipment if possible. Practice good hand hygiene.

Monitor Your Child’s Health

While we continue to learn more about the COVID-19 virus, we know that children have a lower risk of getting infected, but are NOT risk free. Children can still become infected with COVID, some showing changes that can affect their ability to participate.

It is important to monitor your child’s health regularly. Do NOT let your child participate if:

Your child is feeling ill or showing symptoms of COVID-19. This includes fever, cough, difficulty breathing, nasal congestion, fatigue, sore throat, headache, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If your child has been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Parents should promptly report the exposure to the school or league administrator, even if your child has no symptoms.

If Your Child Tests Positive for COVID-19

If your child has had a positive COVID test, you should also report this to your child’s school or sports league. You should review with your child’s healthcare provider and school/league when it is safe to return as well as things you can do to make them more comfortable.

There have been cases of subtle heart changes and physical changes that can pose life-threatening complications with sports activity after COVID infection. Any student with a positive test should seek evaluation by a medical professional prior to returning to physical activity. It is recommended that those who are infected or those with exposure, regardless of symptoms, complete a minimum 14-day resting period and must have no symptoms for greater than 14 days before returning to sports.

Your child’s healthcare provider will complete an exam similar to their initial sports physical, but this time with special emphasis on heart-related questions, history and examination methods. They will also focus on the symptoms your child may have had while they were sick. Concerning symptoms or history may mean your child should be evaluated by a specialist, such as a cardiologist, to ensure their heart and body are in a healthy place to return.

Once your child is cleared by a healthcare provider and/or specialist and it is safe to return, it is recommended for a phased and slow approach to return to activity over a week or more. More specifics can be given by your child’s doctor or sports league. Continue to monitor for symptoms such as dizziness, difficulty breathing, chest pain/pressure, decreased exercise tolerance or fainting.

Don’t Forget a Sports Physical

Pandemic or not, it’s a good idea and often required to have yearly sports participation exams. We want to help your child participate at their highest level in their chosen sport. Follow up with your child’s doctor to make sure your child is ready for their next season; and ready to keep moving in the event of illness.

Sports physicals help to identify medical problems that could have risk of life-threatening complications. They also allow us to identify conditions that may need treatment or rehabilitation like a muscle strain or sprain or broken bone before your child participates. That is why we ask that you have these physicals done 4-6 weeks prior to the start of their season. We also want to make sure that your child does not have any unnecessary restrictions so that they can perform their best.

A sports physical often includes:

Evaluation Forms

You will be asked to answer many questions about current and past medical history, family history, medications, and any health concerns. Forms are usually provided by your school’s athletic department or sports organization.

Review

The provider working with you and your child will have an in-depth review regarding your child’s medical history, past family history, injuries, current medications, current treatments, and specialists your child may see. We need a well-rounded picture to make sure we can help your child compete at their best level.

Physical Exam

We will complete a full physical exam, looking at and examining all body systems to make sure your child is physically well before they participate.

Forms

We will discuss all questions and concerns with you and your child before you leave the office. Depending on your visit, we may recommend follow with your child’s family doctor or specialists before participation.

Even if your child has not been out due to illness or exposure, many children have been off for several months or longer with limited times of practice. After being away from sports for an extended time, a slow increase of activity can help prevent and decrease risk of injury. Remember to have fun and be safe!

Hannah Henry, APRN-CPNP, is a provider at ProMedica Urgent Care for Kids in Perrysburg.

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