high school sports

High School Sports After the COVID-19 Pandemic: Returning Safely to the Game

For many students, sports are a major part of their high school experience. Teams of high school athletes proudly represent their schools and their communities through their involvement in sports, and for the kids, it’s so much more than just a game.

In high school, many student athletes find a community of like-minded peers, a sense of belonging and purpose, and an outlet to relieve stress. Sports bring people together, but in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much of this sense of gathering has changed. Thanks to social distancing, donning face masks, quarantining and other safety measures, much of the fellowship found in high school sports feels very different than it has in seasons past.

No one could have imagined in February that high school sports teams and athletic departments would be tackling so many challenges this year. With mandates and rule variances between school systems, cities and counties, each school has its own set of complications to face to make practices and other sports events happen safely. In some states, governors are halting sports because even though many student athletes don’t become seriously ill if they are infected, they can still contribute to community spread.

Amidst all of this uncertainty, our team at True Sports Physical Therapy is working hard to support our local student athletes and their wellness needs on and off the field. Our trainers and therapists can help guide athletes and coaches with the physical challenges they are facing during this pandemic and beyond.

High School Sports and COVID-19: Safety Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has compiled a guide to help youth athletic departments, athletes and parents navigate sports seasons during the pandemic. Since more interaction means more chance of exposure, the CDC has outlined the risk of COVID-19 based on the kind of activity:

…Lowest risk: Conditioning and skill-building drills at home, either alone or with family members.

…Increasing risk: Team-based practice.

…More risk: Competition among team members.

…Even more risk: Full competitions between teams within the same local area.

…Highest risk: Full competition with other teams from other geographic areas.

All of these risk levels are with the idea that safety measures like social distancing are in place during practice or competition. If sports teams aren’t able to put these kinds of safety measures in place, they may want to choose individual activities or at-home practices instead, especially for those who are at higher risk for severe illness.

It’s also important to consider the difference between contact and noncontact sports. Noncontact sports like golf, tennis and cross country may be able to safely return to their seasons with safety measures in place. Contact sports like football, basketball and soccer may require more consideration because of the close proximity of the athletes.

In May, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) gave guidance to each state high school association as they considered reopening. This guide was developed by the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which included a team of medical doctors, certified athletic trainers, high school coaches and research specialists. In this document, they offer considerations for state high school associations in regards to returning to their activities and how the infection rates should impact sports seasons.

Athletic Training and Physical Therapy as an Aid in the Safe Return to Sports

As infection rates grow this winter, there’s a lot up in the air for student athletes in any sport, but coaches and students are eager to stay game ready and injury free. Our team at True Sports can help.

Our physical therapists and athletic trainers specialize in working with athletes at all levels, including high school athletes. We offer services to support athletes during this time that include:

…On-site physical therapy services.

…Education for athletes, coaches and parents.

…Clinical evaluations.

…Treatment and rehabilitation plans and guidance.

…Development of plans for strength and conditioning.

…Therapeutic massage.

Much is asked of high school athletes, even as their bodies and minds are still growing. They can and should be supported by physical therapy, especially after a long absence away from their sport like we are currently seeing during the spread of COVID-19.

Proactive and preventative physical therapy and personalized strength and conditioning programs are essential to help students return to their practices and competitions. These programs can maximize performance while reducing the risk of injury.

Treating Student Athletes During COVID-19

Any time an athlete is experiencing pain or discomfort, they should seek out the help of a physical therapist, especially one who specializes in working with athletes. We can assist your students in their recovery safely and with careful consideration of the physical demands of their sport and their body.

Of course, not all families or high school athletes feel comfortable coming into our facility to receive treatment. For those who would prefer to consult with our trainers and therapists online, we offer virtual services so that athletes can receive the treatment they need to progress toward their goals without having to meet face to face (or in this case, mask to mask).

Even online, all of our services are personalized to each individual athlete. Our licensed therapists offer one-on-one guidance and individualized home exercise programs for students who are injured or are planning their return to practice or competition.

Stay Safe Through This Extended “Offseason”

This year has been all about adapting and adjusting to changing safety measures to stay healthy and well. Our team has been changing too so that we can continue to help the student athletes of Baltimore and the surrounding communities avoid injury or rehabilitate after an injury and stay strong, all while remaining in compliance with the latest safety precautions.

So much of physical therapy, athletic training and high school sports is hands on. There’s a lot that will need to shift to keep students healthy, fit and ready to compete, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to keeping athletes safe and healthy at any age and skill level.

If your student has been dealing with an injury, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with our team of experts. After all, while we may be taking a timeout from our favorite sports, there’s no need to take a break from wellness.

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