Some Youth Sports Teams Need Work on COVID Safety Guidelines

As some experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, are pointing the finger at team sports as one of the culprits for the spike in COVID-19 cases in kids, a new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan shows one in four parents gave their sports league fair to poor rankings for enforcement of COVID safety guidelines.

Still, on the upside in the poll, released Tuesday, that means 3 in 4 parents said they felt their child’s sports team got it mostly right. (Let us know what you think about your teams in the comments below!)

For many sports, the new normal for now involves kids wearing masks and having their temperature checked frequently and having fewer adoring fans in their cheering sections. It also might include more social distancing before and after practices or games.

“As kids return to playing sports, it’s critical that teams and facilities enforce COVID guidelines to keep players, coaches and families as safe as possible and to reduce community spread,” says poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H., in a news release.

“This is especially important as we have seen recent COVID-19 outbreaks among youth sports teams. While most families seem confident in their local organization’s safety measures, our report suggests that ensuring compliance with COVID-19 protocols has also been challenging.”

It found most parents received info about when players should sit out after being exposed to COVID and when they could return to play after a diagnosis, but they reported the info being less clear about when they should get tested.

“Parents largely felt that sports officials successfully communicated about most of their new COVID-19 policies,” Clark says in the release. “Communication was notably lower around COVID-19 testing. It’s unclear if the lack of information was an oversight or if schools and leagues didn’t have clear guidelines from public health officials.”

The Mott Poll report is a nationally representative poll based on responses from 1,630 parents of children ages 6-18 who were surveyed about youth sports participation between August 2020 and January 2021.

The poll found that one-fourth of parents polled allowed their children to participate in sports between August 2020 and January 2021. However, 1 in 3 parents said their child’s sport was canceled and 1 in 4 said they wouldn’t allow their child to participate because they were concerned about them getting COVID.

When asked what they would likely do if their own child had COVID-19 during a sports season, 40% of parents would wait the number of days specified by team or league guidelines before allowing them to return, while half would have their child cleared to play by a doctor. Five percent would base the decision on when the child felt well enough to play.

Source: CS Mott Children’s Hospital

Fewer parents of teens told researchers they would have their child cleared by doctors should they get COVID.

“If parents rely solely on league guidelines to determine when it’s safe for their child to return to sports activity, they may overlook signs that the child is not fully recovered. It’s important that parents involve their child’s doctor for specific guidance on resuming sports activity,” Clark says.

Clark urges parents to reinforce not sharing water bottles or food and using hand sanitizer during breaks. Plus, they should avoid indoor gatherings before and after the event, she says. In addition, parents should maintain their own social distancing and mask wearing while cheering on their child.

“Unlike many youth activities that have switched to a remote format to meet social distancing guidelines, sports can’t go virtual,” she says in the release. “It’s important that both sports officials and families closely adhere to guidelines that minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission during practices and competitions.”

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