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Returning to Sports During a Pandemic

Published on Mar. 05, 2021

The benefits of sports and physical activities are known to help children’s health and wellness. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, our kids are looking to interact with their peers and participate in some of their favorite hobbies, now more than ever. The time for packing snacks, practice clothes and hydrating drinks is upon us – but you might want to add hand gel and antibacterial wipes to that list.

With the significant reduction in community transmission and increased rate of vaccination, the time for kids to get back to sports and physical activities is approaching, if it hasn’t already.

Recently, the California Department of Public Health has updated the “return to play” guidance for youth sports and recreational activities. The guidance applies to all organized youth and adult sports, including school and community-sponsored programs and privately organized clubs/leagues. Activities such as football, soccer, baseball, cheerleading and other outdoor sport competitions may resume with modifications in counties with COVID-19 case rates at or below 14 per 100,000.

Tulare and Madera Counties are already below this threshold, and Fresno County recently met the criteria as well. As we continue to reduce the spread by wearing a mask and getting vaccinated, even more counties will become eligible.

As kids return to sports and physical activities, we need to enforce safety precautions, including the need to get sports physicals and follow existing COVID-19 guidelines in order to sustain the decline of infection rates that allow our kids to get back to their hobbies.

Recommendations for a safe return to sports and physical activities include that they :

  • Wash hands with soap and water (for a minimum of 20 seconds) and/or use hand sanitizer before and after participation
  • Do not share water bottles, snacks, equipment, towels, etc.
  • Avoid touching their face or unnecessary any objects unless their hands are clean
  • Avoid high fives, fist pounds or chest bumps
  • Maintain physical distancing from teammates, coaches and other players during a time-out, in huddle and between games
  • Wear a mask when they are on the bench during games and when not participating in practice

Your child should not attend or participate in group/team sports, competitions or practice if they:

  • Feel ill or have symptoms of COVID-19, such a fever of 100.4 or more, cough or difficulty breathing
  • Have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days (contact their doctor for quarantine guidance)

If you are unsure whether your child should attend or participate in practice due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, contact your healthcare provider.

Anyone present at a practice or competition should wear a mask, including referees, trainers, parents, coaches, etc. As parents, model all safety practices and get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible to help stop the spread so that our kids can get back to being kids.

For more information about county eligibility, visit the California Department of Public Health website. Click here to learn more about safety guidelines for our youth sport administrators set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


by Dr. Shea Osburn
Valley Children’s Healthcare