Having COVID-19 vaccines for kids age 5 and up is a game changer for many families. Being fully vaccinated can mean a safer return to fun and healthy activities like youth sports.
For children still too young to get the vaccine yet, though, it is especially important to continue steps that reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Also keep in mind that many kids have been less active during the pandemic, raising their risk of certain injuries. Plus, any child or teen who has recently had COVID-19 needs to be screened by their pediatrician for possible effects of the virus on the heart before resuming physical activity.
Read on for more ways to keep your child safe and healthy as they return to sports and other physical activity.
Before the sports season starts
Understand the safety rules and expectations for participation during COVID-19 and talk about them with your child.
Make sure your child has their own
hand sanitizer, towel, water bottle, and tissues labeled with their names.
Call your pediatrician to make an appointment if your child needs a
pre-participation physical exam.
If your child hasn't been active during COVID-19, start easing into exercise. For sports with a lot of running, for example, consider a beginner conditioning program (such as the "Couch to 5K" or "None to Run" apps) a couple of months before the season. This can help prevent injuries that sudden, intense activity can cause in growing children. It can also reduce the risk of heat-related illness in kids affected by obesity during the pandemic.
Prior to practice or games
Keep your child home from practice or games if they're feeling sick or have any
symptoms of COVID-19, and get a
test if the doctor recommends.
Remind your child to
wash their hands before arriving, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren't available.
Bring labeled (with name) personal sports equipment, water bottle, towel, tissues, hand sanitizer, and face mask.
For children who are not fully vaccinated, wear face masks when arriving or leaving the playing facility and off the playing field. Regardless of vaccination status, encourage your child to wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces such as locker rooms and shared transportation.
During sports practice or games
If the sport is outdoors and your child is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, encourage them to wear a face mask when on the sidelines and during group training and competitions that involve continually being within 3 feet or less from others.
Anyone not fully vaccinated should wear a face mask for all indoors sports training, competition and on the sidelines.
- In counties with substantial or high transmission, all athletes should wear a mask for indoor training and competition, whether or not they are vaccinated.
- Even if they're fully vaccinated, encourage your child to wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces like locker rooms, shared transportation, walking to and from the playing area, between practice drills, and on the sidelines.
- If your child takes off their mask during a break, they should stay at least 3 feet away from everyone else.
However, masks should not be worn during:Exceptions to mask-wearing might be a appropriate when the risk of heat-related illness is increased.
Coaches, officials, spectators and volunteers should wear masks at all times. This helps set a good example for others and protects against transmission.
To help protect unvaccinated children, try to avoid:
Huddles, high-fives, fist bumps, handshakes, etc.
Sharing food or drink with teammates.
Cheering, chanting, or singing when closer than 6-8 feet from others.
Spitting or blowing nose without a tissue.
Store personal equipment 6-8 feet away from other teammates' equipment.
Minimize sharing sports equipment when possible.
Sanitize hands before and after using shared equipment such as balls, bats and sticks.
Tell a coach if you are not feeling well and leave the practice or game with a parent or caregiver.
After sports practice or games
Sanitize or wash hands.
Wash or replace face masks, towel and practice clothes or uniform.
Clean personal sports equipment and water bottle.
Talk with your child's pediatrician if you have any questions about your child participating safely in sports, based on vaccination status, COVID-19 rates in your community and your child's individual health.
The information was adapted from material developed jointly by the American Academy of Pediatrics and: