Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

December 2020

Pediatricians Update Youth Sports Guidance, Recommend Face Coverings at All Times

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated its recommendations on youth sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization now encourages players of most sports to wear cloth face coverings at all times for group training, competition and on the sidelines.

Cloth face coverings have been shown to decrease transmission rates of COVID-19, and the coverings have been found to be tolerated well by the majority of people who wear them for exercise. The broader cloth face covering encouragement is just one of the changes in the update to the Academy's interim guidance on sports. Previously, AAP recommended that coverings be worn by athletes on the sidelines and during less vigorous activity.

"Research shows that we can significantly lower the risk of COVID-19 transmission with cloth masks that completely cover the nose and mouth and that are fitted on the sides with no gaps," said Susannah Briskin, M.D., FAAP, author of the guidance and a pediatric sports medicine specialist. "Proper and consistent use of a cloth face mask is especially important right now as so many athletes move indoors for sports during the colder months. While regular exercise is important for our kids' mental and physical well-being, we must do everything we can to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread."

Roughly 45 to 45 million children and teens ages 6 to 18 participate in some form of athletics. The pandemic has had a major impact, with many programs canceled or altered as virus infection rates have increased across the country this fall.

Indoor sports bear a greater risk of transmission of COVID-19, and certain sports, including ice hockey, carry higher relative risk, the AAP notes. The risks and benefits of indoor sports, as well as community prevalence of COVID-19, should be carefully considered when making decisions about continuing or resuming indoor sports.

In the guidance, AAP notes that face coverings should not be worn during competition in certain sports, such as cheerleading and gymnastics (while on the apparatus) because the covering might get caught on objects and become a choking hazard or impair vision. Likewise, during wrestling contact, a cloth face covering could become a choking hazard and is discouraged. Swimmers and divers also should not wear face coverings while competing. Individual sports performed outside, such as golf and singles tennis, are at a lower risk of transmission, so a cloth face covering may not be necessary for those sports.

Other recommendations from the AAP include:

  • Practice groups should be kept at small sizes that do not mix youth athletes to limit team-wide outbreaks. Small pods allow for easier contact tracing and fewer numbers of athletes needing to be quarantined if someone tests positive.
  • Young athletes with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend practices or competition. They should consult their physician for testing guidance and notify their coach, athletic trainer or school administrator of their signs/symptoms.
  • Individuals should always wear a cloth face covering between practice drills, on the sidelines, arriving at and departing form the playing facility, in the locker room and during shared transportation to and from an event.
  • The cloth face covering should fit well and be worn over the nose and below the chin at all times when in use. When the covering is removed for a water break, the athlete should remain at least 6 feet away from other people. Masks that become soaked with sweat should be changed immediately.
  • Cloth face coverings should be worn by coaches, officials, spectators and volunteers at all times. Coaches and other club or school officials should monitor proper use and encourage all athletes to have a properly worn cloth face mask in place.

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