As states begin the initial phases of reopening portions of the economy, sports, too, is trying to find its way back.
The spring sports season in North Carolina was lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to not lose out on any more future events, the NCHSAA and similar athletic governing bodies across the country are looking at ways to safely bring back high school sports.
The National Federation of State High School Associations on Tuesday released suggested guidelines to its members on how to restart athletics. The NFHS — the national governing body of high school sports — released the document after consulting with a 15-member sports medicine advisory committee that included medical doctors, athletic training, high school coaches and officials, and research specialists.
The guidelines are just that — guidelines — and are intended to help as high school associations navigate the challenges of returning to play safely, while also taking into consideration the unique needs that each sport will face.
“We are greatly indebted to the NFHS sports medicine advisory committee for its work in formulating this guidance for reopening high school athletics and activities,” NFHS executive director Dr. Karissa Niehoff said. “It is important to be clear that this is guidance for individual states to consider as they return to activities this fall. States will utilize the guidance in this document as it best fits their state after consulting with local and state health departments.”
The advisory committee said that the guidelines should be a starting point for states to use when considering how to move forward with athletics. The NFHS also identified sports that fall under three categories of low risk, moderate risk and high risk for spreading the virus.
Lower risk sports include individual running events, throwing events (javelin, shot put, discus), individual swimming, golf, weightlifting, alpine skiing, sideline cheer, single sculling, cross country running (with staggered starts).
Moderate risk sports include basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, water polo, gymnastics, ice hockey, field hockey, tennis, swimming relays and field events like long jump and high jump. Many of these sports, however, come with the caveat that equipment should be cleaned after each use, and no sharing of equipment.
The sports that fall under that high transmission risk are wrestling, football, lacrosse and competitive cheer/dance.
High school sports were suspended on March 13, and have not been played since. The spring sports season was cut short after two weeks of play. The boys’ and girls’ basketball state championship games were not played, and the NCHSAA board of directors voted in April to name the East and West representatives as co-champions.
The high school athletic season won’t begin until later this summer so there is time to work out the details in how to move forward. Currently, the state is in Phase One of the three-step plan to reopen.