NFHS Releases Guidelines for Resuming High School Sports

(OnFocus) The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has released guidelines for resuming high school sports in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee believes it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of high school students across the nation to return to physical activity and athletic competition,” the NFHS said in a statement. “The NFHS SMAC recognizes that it is likely that ALL students will not be able to return to – and sustain – athletic activity at the same time in all schools, regions, and states. There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held. While we would typically have reservations regarding such inequities, the NFHS SMAC endorses the idea of returning students to school-based athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done safely.”

The plan includes a three-phase process to resume athletic activities, along with questions each state association would have to ask before resuming athletics:

  1. Will your state association conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if public schools statewide are closed to in-person learning (apart from regularly scheduled school breaks)?
  2. Will your state association conduct an athletics/activities regular season or championship if schools are closed only in COVID-19 “hotspots” in your state? (excluding participants from schools that are closed)?
  3. Will your state association conduct an athletics/activities regular season in sports deemed “lower- risk” for COVID-19 transmission while canceling athletics/activities considered “higher-risk?”
  4. Are there recommendations unique to your state – or regions of your state – that you need to take into consideration when developing return-to-activity guidelines?

The guidelines also include information on how to maintain social distancing, the use of cloth face coverings, the limitations on the use of locker room facilities, the type of drills that are used, and the size of practices based on the current conditions in your area.

The document also breaks down sports into three categories based on the risk of infection.

Higher Risk includes wrestling, football, boys lacrosse, competitive cheer, dance. These sports involve close, sustained contact between participants, and lack of significant protective barriers

Moderate Risk includes basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, gymnastics, ice hockey, field hockey, tennis, swimming relays, pole vault, high jump, long jump. These sports involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants. Some of these sports could be considered low risk with appropriate cleaning measures.

Lower Risk includes individual running events, throwing events (javelin, shot put, discus), individual swimming, golf, sideline cheer, cross country running (with staggered starts) These sports that can be done with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between use by competitors.

You can read the full document here.

Steven Okonek
Author: Steven Okonek