During COVID-19 youth sports activities have started up in many parts of the United States. To decrease the risk of youth athletes getting COVID-19, coaches, teams and parents can take precautions to help decrease the risk of young athletes getting COVID-19, including wearing masks, cleaning and disinfecting, and even new technology.
How can we keep children playing sports safe?
One place to look is the article “Youth Sports and COVID-19: Understanding the Risks” from the HealthyChildren.org, run by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The article says that safety precautions need to be in place for practices and games, including face coverings, the use of hand sanitizers and more.
The article also reminds that different sporting events have different risks. Individual sports that allow for six to eight feet between competitors carry a lower risk than team sports with frequent contact. Sports that enable physical distancing are the equivalent of the social distancing generally recommended by immunology and medical experts to keep people free from COVID-19. The article explains that small teams carry less risk than large teams. Traveling also increases the risk of becoming infected, as children become enclosed in small vehicles or buses, flow through common areas, or visit other towns or schools.
When players share equipment, they increase their chances of catching the virus, the article warns. Children should try to bring and use their own equipment, and if that's not possible, equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected or wiped down with sanitizing wipes between uses.
The article also reminds parents that indoor sports are higher risks than outdoor sports. The better the area is ventilated, the safer for the children, with large fields and outdoor areas offering the best possible playing area. Small teams carry less risk than large teams. Traveling increases the risk of becoming infected.
CDC Guidelines for Youth Sports During COVID-19
The CDC has excellent advice as well. It recommends that you “make a game plan to reduce risk" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here’s one recommendation: “If organizations are not able to keep safety measures in place during competition (for example, keeping participants six feet apart at all times), they may consider limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only.”
It also has these recommendations for young athletes:
- 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.
COVID-19 Youth Sports Safety from HealthChildren.org
Also worth checking out is “Youth Sports Participation During COVID-19: A Safety Checklist,” published by HealthChildren.org. It’s a great checklist that offers advice starting before the season begins, prior to practices and games, during games or practices, and after games and practices. It also has advice on what to do if an athlete has contracted COVID-19.
Screening is important as well
In addition to all that, screening youth athletes for COVID-19 is critical. Many schools and athletic associates require temperature checks or proof of a negative COVID-19 test before a child participates in sports activities. Another effective way to screen children for sports is by using a COVID-19 screening app.
Coronavirus screening apps require users to ask questions about their current health condition, any symptoms they may have, where they're located or if they've traveled recently, and if they've been exposed to any know COVID-19 patients or at-risk areas. Based on the answers supplied by the user, the app recommends or certifies if the child is safe to attend or participate in a youth sports activity.
COVID Screening App for Youth Sports
A great COVID screening app is AlphaMED COVIDCARE, a wellness mobile app built to help school districts reopen schools safely during the coronavirus pandemic. The public health app is the first written by a physician on the front line of COVID-19 diagnosis and care in New York City. The app adapts to changing Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state guidelines. It also takes into account up-to-date global guidelines on the changing nature of the virus, so it can assess newly identified symptoms or risk factors. Teachers and faculty or students and their parents log into the app each morning, answer questions about their COVID risk factors and any current symptoms, then certifies if they can attend school that day. The app is currently in use by school districts to help the schools reopen safely.
The AlphaMED COVIDCARE COVID screening app for schools can easily be adopted by coaches, teams and youth athletes to assess their risk of having COVID-19 and certify them to participate in sports each day. Learn more about this potential youth sports screening app
See an example of another COVID screening app currently in use by professional rugby leagues.
Assess your risk of having or developing COVID-19 with Alpha Software's Free COVID Risk Assessment app.