As student athletes prepare to hit the practice fields to get ready for fall sports, schools face not only the usual task of how to keep them safe during summer’s heat and humidity, but also the challenge of COVID-19 and how to help keep students, coaches, trainers and anyone else involved safe during the ongoing pandemic.
The American Red Cross offers the following safety information based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
- Clean and disinfect equipment and frequently touched surfaces on or around the field, court, or play surface daily or between uses as much as possible.
- As much as possible, minimize sharing of equipment including balls, bats, gymnastics equipment and protective gear. If it is not possible to have dedicated equipment for each player, limit use of supplies and equipment to one smaller group of players at a time and clean and disinfect those supplies and equipment between use.
- Discourage the sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.
FACE COVERINGS, SOCIAL DISTANCING
- Cloth face coverings should be worn by coaches, sports staff, officials, parents and spectators as much as possible.
- For youth sports programs, encourage players to wait in their cars until just before the beginning of a practice, warm-up or game, instead of grouping together. (Never leave children alone in a parked car.)
- Increase the size of the practice field or court.
- Create physical distance between players when explaining drills or the rules of the game. Provide physical guides, such as signs, paint and tape on floors or playing fields. Space players at least 6 feet apart on the field, when possible, such as during warmup, skill building activities and simulation drills.
- If keeping physical distance is difficult with players in competition or group practice, consider relying on individual skill work and drills.
- Discourage unnecessary physical contact, such as high fives, handshakes, fist bumps or hugs.
- Trainers and coaches should stay at least 6 feet away from players and others when possible.
- Sports that require frequent closeness between players, trainers or coaches pose a higher risk for spreading COVID-19. To lower this risk, trainers should limit close contact and encourage the athlete to focus on individual skill building and conditioning from a distance of at least 6 feet. If close contact is required (such as for spotting), programs are encouraged to assign each coach and trainer a small group of athletes. This group of athletes should stay with the same coach and trainer throughout the season and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coaches and trainers should wear a cloth face covering when interacting with the athletes.
- If feasible, conduct daily health checks of coaches, officials, staff and players.
- Avoid scheduling workouts and exercise during the hottest times of the day – schedule them for early in the day or later in the evening.
- Get players acclimated to the heat by reducing the intensity of workouts or exercise until they are more accustomed to the heat.
- Have players take frequent, longer breaks. Stop about every 20 minutes to drink fluids and try to have them stay in the shade.
- Those in charge should reduce the amount of heavy equipment athletes wear in the extremely hot weather. Dress athletes in net-type jerseys or lightweight, light-colored cotton tee shirts and shorts.
- Know the signs of heat-related emergencies and monitor athletes closely.
HEAT EXHAUSTION Athletes should inform those in charge if they are not feeling well. Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.
If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1.
HEAT STROKE LIFE-THREATENING Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.
ONLINE COURSE FOR COACHES The online course – First Aid, Health and Safety for Coaches – was developed by the Red Cross and the National Federation of State High School Associations to provide an overview of first aid and “best practices” for first aid situations encountered by coaches, including injuries to officials, fellow coaches or spectators. More information is available here.
KNOW FIRST AID Prepare for the unexpected with first aid training from the Red Cross. We offer in-person classes (where permitted with COVID-19 precautions), online training or blended learning which combines online and in-person training. Through our classes, you will not only learn how to perform first aid but have the confidence and skills to do it correctly. Learn more here.
You can also download the Red Cross First Aid App which puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips including heat-related emergencies. Download this app for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.