COVID plays havoc with decisions on indoor youth sports

Lots of parents find themselves in the same position as Dr. Susannah Briskin, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, who provides the lead anecdote for this New York Times story that asks a not-so-simple simple question: How risky are indoor sports this winter?

Briskin the parent “plans to let her 15-year-old daughter play indoor basketball under the following conditions: No locker rooms. Masking and distancing rules must be strictly followed. And when she gets home, the teenager immediately showers and puts her clothes in the wash,” the Times says.

But as a co-author of the COVID-19 interim guidelines on youth sports, released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Briskin also “has thought deeply about the safety of indoor sports during the pandemic,” the paper says. “For her own kids, the benefits of exercise and seeing friends outweigh the COVID-19 risks, provided the right precautions are in place.”

But not all parents feel that way, and the Times talks with a few who won’t have their kids playing over the next few months.

Guidelines from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics say the risk of transmission is greater indoors, but “neither has taken a hard position on indoor sports,” according to the article. Briskin said the academy analyzes new data and research every 30 days to determine if any new findings should guide its recommendations.

The Times says some decisions depend on the sport itself. “Close contact and physical exertion put hockey and basketball in a higher risk category, but masks during practice and games can provide some protection,” according to the piece. “It’s easier to distance in swim lanes, but you can’t mask in the water.”

Another Cleveland medical official has advice on mask-wearing.

From the piece:

Parents should be sure that masks for sports fit snugly, feel comfortable and, importantly, have multiple layers, said Mark Cameron, an associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and an emerging infectious disease researcher.

“With exercise, you’re exhaling a lot of moisture, and a single-layer mask of any type will soon get damp and saturate,” Dr. Cameron said. “At that point, it’s not trapping the virus anymore.

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