Can Outdoor Sports Continue Safely During COVID-19?

COVID-19 has changed the way we live our lives, and sports are no exception. With the virus more likely to spread indoors, outdoor sports and activities are the safest option for athletes to train, practice, and compete. But what precautions should be taken to ensure that outdoor sports can continue safely during the pandemic? We now know that this virus may be linked to health problems that can last well beyond the initial wave of symptoms. Children may also experience depression or anxiety when they are out of play for an extended period of time and their bodies may be unconditioned, putting them at greater risk of injury.

Therefore, it is important to choose outdoor spots for sports and classes whenever possible. Before an activity or event, organizers should listen to the most recent forecast to determine the likelihood of thunderstorms. There are many good sources of up-to-date weather information, including NOAA weather radio. If thunderstorms are forecast, organizers should consider canceling or postponing the activity or event.

In some cases, the event can be moved indoors. Once people start arriving at an event, lightning safety plan guidelines should be followed. Officials should monitor weather conditions, weather radar, and lightning detection technology for storm development or proximity. The following is information to consider when developing a lightning safety plan.

In addition, NOAA has developed lightning safety toolkits for organizations and venues to use in developing a plan. The following are some of the considerations for developing a lightning safety plan:

  • Participating in sports and physical activity allows young people to improve their cardiovascular health, strength, body composition and general fitness.
  • Masks are very important in sporting events where it is common for coaches, players, officials and spectators to raise their voices shouting, singing or singing. Proper use of masks during indoor sports decreases the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and people can choose to wear a mask at any time to help mitigate the risk of infection.
  • Sports and physical activities without shared equipment, such as cross-country, are likely to be less risky than sports such as soccer that are played with a shared ball.
  • Bring personal sports equipment labeled (with your name), water bottle, towel, disposable tissues, hand sanitizer, and mask.
With prolonged rest from activity, athletes are at significant risk of injury when they return to sports. A sprint in a track race, for example, may be less risky than sports that put someone in close contact with another player for an extended period, such as an entire half of a game.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that decisions be made at the local level when considering cancellations, delays or limitations in sports. Children and teens who have participated or are unable to participate in important events, such as their last high school sports season or a state championship tournament, and those with a history of depression and anxiety may be more affected than others. If the sport is outdoor, athletes who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 should be encouraged to wear a mask on the sidelines and during all group training and competitions that involve being continuously less than 3 feet apart from others. But before you allow you to return to the gym or go out on the field, there are a few precautions you should take to make sure you are physically and mentally ready to go back to sports. According to the CDC, the best way for parents to mitigate their children's risk when playing sports is to vaccinate them, encourage sick team members to stay home, and emphasize that coaches place signs around practices that encourage social distancing and wearing masks. Your child may return to sports when isolation or quarantine is complete and has fully recovered, but doctors recommend that you do so gradually to limit his risk of injury.

Pediatricians should also refer to state regulations and guidelines associated with returning to sports, as states allow practice and competition to resume at different stages.