AAP issues guidance to keep kids safe playing sports during COVID-19

July 29, 2020

It’s not only professional sports leagues returning to the playing field. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued interim guidance to keep young athletes safe from COVID-19.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and the debate over the return to school continues to rage, another question remains: What should be done to protect children when they get involved in athletics? The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued interim guidance on how to keep children safe when they play sports.1

The guidance highlights the many benefits that a child would get from sports participation, which include better physical fitness, socialization with peers, and developmental growth. The current information on COVID-19 continues to indicate that children become infected at a lower frequency than adults and when they do become ill, the course of disease is typically mild. Playing sports does carry some risk that a child could infect family members or adults who are coaching the child. It is not currently recommended to test a child for COVID-19 before participating in sports, unless the child is either symptomatic or has known exposure to COVID-19.

The guidance includes modifications to reduce risks:

  • Emphasizing activities that can encourage noncontact, such as sports conditioning
  • Use signs, education, and sanitizer or handwashing stations to promote hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the spread of COVID-19
  • Have children practice in small groups that consistently include the same athletes
  • Keep travel to other cities or regions to a minimum
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces as often as possible
  • Keep equipment sharing and the use of communal areas to a minimum
  • Avoid using small spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained or using rooms with poor ventilation
  • Increase ventilation when safe
  • Prohibit children from sharing food or drinks
  • Encourage children to bring their own hydration in water bottles

A face mask should be required for any volunteer, coach, official, or spectator. Any person should wear a face covering when entering or departing an athletic facility. Athletes should wear face masks when they are on the sidelines and during nonvigorous physical activity. Face masks aren’t recommended during vigorous activities, water activities such as swimming, or activities where the covering could obstruct vision or get caught on equipment, such as gymnastics.

If a child athlete shows signs of COVID-19, they should not attend any practices or games until the recommended quarantine period has elapsed. If there is a positive test result, the team officials and the local health department should be contacted to initiate any contact tracing protocols.

Reference

1. American Academy of Pediatrics. COVID-19 interim guidance: return to sports. Published July 23, 2020. Accessed July 27, 2020. https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-interim-guidance-return-to-sports/.