Topic: Physicians underscore importance of masks, distancing while playing school sports during pandemic
A program that pairs scientists and physicians with school districts is preparing to release guidance about team sports during the coronavirus pandemic, but some of the guidance could differ from protocols schools are already following.
The ABC Science Collaborative, which is partnered with 60 school districts in North Carolina and represents two-thirds of the school-aged children in the state, including in Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties, will release guidelines soon.
Dr. Daniel Benjamin, a doctor at Duke Health and leader of the ABC Science Collaborative, said there are important reasons to resume sports at schools, such as increased socialization in an environment that is likely to be less populated than areas of the general public. Studies have shown participating in athletics leads to higher grades, fewer disciplinary problems, and higher rates of attendance. Doctors have also pointed to the mental health benefits of student-athletes participating in sports during the pandemic.
There are some differences between the recommendations of the ABC Science Collaborative and the N.C. High School Athletic Association though. The collaborative recommends use of masks by athletes in sports like volleyball, but NCHSAA guidelines do not require athletes to wear masks while participating in physical activity.
The ABC Science Collaborative also points out that the NCHSAA will resume volleyball on Nov. 4 and boys soccer in January, two sports the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services classifies as “enhanced risk” sports. The NCHSAA also plans to begin basketball in December and football and February, which DHHS classifies as sports they do not recommend playing.
NCHSAA guidelines for all sports include adjustments to rules and procedures, as well as safety protocols for athletes, coaches, officials, and spectators. A lengthy document of guidelines from the NCHSAA was drafted by the NCHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which is made up of medical professionals, then was reviewed and approved by DHHS before it was implemented.
“Having cases come into athletics is entirely predictable because the athletes simply reflect the community in which they live. What North Carolina wants to avoid is what some districts in other states have seen which is secondary transmission with athletics,” Benjamin said, adding that the use of masks is the key to avoiding spread within the school.
Topic Discussed: Physicians underscore importance of masks, distancing while playing school sports during pandemic