Doctor IDs safety measures for youth team sports practices

Before practice begins, parents must understand COVID-19 protective protocols

By UW Medicine | Newsroom

As many schools go online-only and cancel fall sports, this doesn’t mean youth sports and practices are a no-show come September.

“Right now in King County, we don’t have the public health approval to move forward with sports that require contact,” said Dr. Jonathan Drezner, director of the UW Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology and a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks.

That rules out soccer, volleyball, football and basketball, for now. Golf, cross country running, (with appropriate spacing) as well as tennis were several sports Drezner could occurring after school begins. And practices, he said, might still be viable for some team sports, such as soccer, could still occur, with precautions and with players limited to small groups.

Before sending their kids to a practice, parents need to understand safety protocols in place and how they will be enforced by coaches and leagues. Parents also need to know which questions to ask, Drezner said.

“The general question is this: What is the club’s plan for practicing safely?” he said. There needs to be a formal plan so players, coaches, and parents are on the same page. He offered these recommendations:

1. Everyone should wear a mask while traveling to and from practice, and during exercise when physical distance from others is not possible.

“When my children go out of the house, they wear a mask,” Drezner said. “And all their friends are in a mask, and when they go to a playground they are in a mask.”

2. There has to be strict discipline to keep kids farther apart than the common six feet of social distance. In sports practices in which players are breathing heavily, the spacing around each child should be 10 to 12 feet.

3. Parents, coaches and athletes need to be aware of the sometimes-subtle symptoms of COVID-19. Aside from fever or a cough, parents should be aware of sore throats, headaches, and new rashes among children. Parents should screen their kids at home, before practice, he advised. If anyone in the household is sick, the child should not go to practice. If it’s diagnosed as COVID-19, then testing and quarantines should occur per public health guidelines before the child returns to practice.

4. Consider the logistics. Drezner discourages carpools for now, if possible. If a carpool is necessary, everyone in the car should wear a mask.

5. What will the rules be at the practice?

“When kids get to the field, they should space out their bags and not put them in a cluster,” Drezner said. If kids can maintain a 10- to 12-foot distance, then it should be safe to take off the mask during practice. Coaches can mark the field and plan drills to maintain appropriate distance between players.

Finally, after practice, kids should sanitize their hands and then put their masks back on. Don’t mingle after practice – and that goes for parents too, he said. Catch up with your friends later by FaceTime or Zoom, he suggested.


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