By January 13th, the first confirmed case outside of China was recorded in Thailand. A month later, the WHO gave the mysterious disease a name, COVID-19, a novel coronavirus. COVID-19 – like SARS (2003) – is a coronavirus, however, how they transmit and infect their host seems is different. COVID-19 appears to transmit at an extremely effective rate but does not produce as severe symptoms in comparison to SARS. This was most observable by March 11th when the spread of the virus raised alarm bells across Europe and North America. It was then on this day – the 11th of March – that the WHO declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. A pandemic is defined as “an infectious disease occurring worldwide, or over a vast area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.” What followed was a vast array of approaches by governments around the world to protect their citizens, financial markets and livelihoods. All approaches have since been highly scrutinized and analyzed by everyone. And rightfully so, this pandemic has had an effect on all areas of life, and yet we also don’t have a clue how COVID-19 operates. What is seen certain over the past months is that there are effective practices for managing it’s spread. 1) Washing hands and surfaces. 2) Physical distancing when possible. 3) Wearing a mask in populated areas, like stores, busy streets, churches, etc. 4) Discouraging and avoiding normal mast gatherings like sporting events and concerts.
Related:COVID-19: Return to Play and the Effect on Sports Naturally, these practices have spread into all areas of life. In recent months, it has been evident how it has spread into sports and how sports have had to adapt – professionally and recreationally. The NBA and NHL set the tone for how professional sport could be run while essentially eliminating COVID-19. The two leagues established bubbles in which the leagues operate, live, train, and compete in. The MLB took a slightly different approach and have had to deal with COVID-19 clusters within clubhouses and staff. However, they have been able to manage and mitigate further spread between teams. Showing that a more travel-friendly approach is possible, and maybe possible for all in the future. Other professional football (soccer) leagues in Europe have used a similar approach, travelling to different cities in the country and playing in empty stadiums.
So, what does this all mean – in terms of sports – for students and youths in 2020/2021? Based on research being conducted around the world, and here at Player’s Health, it looks as though much of the upcoming season will be cancelled or postponed. Practices and inner-city/region games may be able to go ahead – but not without different schedules, restrictions and guidelines. While this may be a steep learning curve for many individuals, coaches, teams and associations, youth sport has an obligation to adhere to government guidelines and be able to ensure the safety of all participants and families.
Related: The Return of School Sports If sport were to happen at a normal level, in these times, here are a few guidelines that sports organizations would need to adopt;
- Athletes will need to be tested within 24 hours of gameplay to be allowed to compete. If an athlete were to test positive for COVID, they must quarantine for 14 days.
- Spectators should be limited in attendance. Those that do attend should practice social distancing and wear masks.
- Do not share food, drinks or snacks among the teams. It is best to have individually wrapped food for each athlete.
- All equipment and clothing should be disinfected and cleaned each day. Athletes should practice social distancing when possible and wash their hands often.
- Adopting a more local approach.
- Focusing on player and athlete development.
- Tracking an athlete’s health and safety.