Baylor College of Medicine


How student athletes can stay healthy amid COVID-19

Kaylee Dusang


Houston, TX -

One of the main activities that students, parents and teachers look forward to when the school year begins is attending seasonal sports games. As the fall semester takes off with schools doing their best to limit the spread of COVID-19, a sports medicine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine said the safest way to play sports is to practice social distancing and proper hygiene whenever possible. 

“The best way to prevent risk is to remind students of frequent handwashing or have hand sanitizers readily available, especially before, during and after practice,” said Dr. Irvin Sulapas, a primary care sports medicine physician and assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor. “It depends on the sport, but if you are touching surfaces or working with something like a football or basketball, just remember to use hand sanitizer after you’re done using it and clean the ball as well.”

It may seem difficult to prevent the spread of germs while playing sports, especially those with physical contact, but Sulapas said there are a few precautions athletes can follow whenever they head to practice or the game: 

Practice good hygiene

  • Bring your own water bottle.
  • Avoid borrowing others athletic equipment. Sulapas recommends that coaches and parents double check that there is enough athletic equipment available so athletes can avoid sharing. 
  • Disinfect equipment like sports balls, helmets or gloves after they are used. 
  • Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently, especially before and after practice and games. 
  • Remain home if you are sick. Sulapas advises that students or parents keep a daily symptom checklist as reference before heading to practice.

Keep your distance

  • Try keeping practice outdoors, even if the sport is traditionally indoors.
  • Limit the amount of people in or around the practice area. Sulapas recommends staggering the number of athletes who are on the field to avoid making it difficult to social distance.
  • Wear a mask and remain 6 feet apart whenever possible.
  • Avoid having too many people in the gym or weight room, or consider doing additional workouts or conditioning at home.
  • Avoid high fives, hugs, fist bumps, etc.
  • For parents, remain in the car when dropping kids off and picking them up for practice.

“It’s important that everyone who is attending practices or games remembers to wear a mask – we have seen cases of kids contracting COVID-19 and also cases of young adults and kids who may be asymptomatic carriers,” Sulapas said.

Sulapas adds that it is important to frequently check the recommendations from local health authorities on whether students should return to sports practice or any other athletic event.

“Sports will come back to normal eventually, but for now we have to implement them in a safe fashion,” Sulapas said. “School sports are not like professional leagues where they can do testing every day or live and compete in a bubble, so it’s important to stay cautious by practicing social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask.”

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