Sports, Safe or Risky?
By Katherine Avera
One of the many highlights of high school is sports season. According to the NCAA, “nearly 8 million students play a sport in high school” (NCAA 1). Going to the football and basketball games bring entertainment to the students, faculty, and community. However, the outcome of 2020 has put a change to these sporting events.
Although sports are a great way to help your physical and mental health, many question the safety concerning participation in sports during a global pandemic. The CDC split sports into 3 categories based on the risk of COVID exposure during playtime: low risk, moderate risk, and high risk.
The low-risk sports include tennis, swimming, biking, gymnastics, golf, and cross country. These sports are deemed low-risk because of the lack of contact in the sport and the easy ability to distance themselves from one another
The moderate sports include soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball, and field hockey. These sports have slight contact, but most of them are outside and easy to space out.
And finally are the high-risk sports. These include football, wrestling, rugby, basketball, and boxing. I am sure plenty can guess why these sports are considered high risk—there is a great deal of contact in these sports. Most of them will also take place indoors, which can amplify COVID transmission rates according to COVID precautions.
Now that we know the risk levels, what about the actual playing? Many of these sports are being played all over the United States, including high-risk sports! Although athletes are required to follow the CDC guidelines and wear a mask during practice and playtime in most states the questions surrounding whether these precautions will help to decrease the risk of transmission even with a physical-contact sport is rising. However, the answer is no. While COVID is spread through coughs and sneezes and the solution is wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart, these methods are not very effective, especially if an athlete is guarding someone closely in basketball, or when a participant is completely on top of someone in wrestling. The CDC also indicates that COVID can be transmitted by touch or “touching a surface that has the virus on it”(CDC factsheet 3). This can apply to all sports, but mostly the moderate and high-risk sports.
Yet, a huge factor that encourages parents to let their kids play sports is sustaining mental and physical health. In the article “Quarantine Effects on Society” in the last edition of the newsletter, mental health has been on a decline during the quarantine. Being able to socialize while getting exercise would seem to be beneficial, especially during this time. That is what the parents of a 17-year-old baseball pitcher from Oregon thought. They thought that since baseball was a low-risk sport, he would be fine. However, he then got a mild case of COVID from another teammate. It wasn’t until after when he started having complications with his heart. Now, “a completely healthy, teenage athlete is now limited to walking, lightweights, and stretching”(Lung association 9). This is not the first case of teenage athletes having heart conditions as an effect of COVID. Many college athletes have also had heart problems, such as Georgia State's freshman quarterback Mikele Colasurdo.
Sports have always been one of the many highlights from high school, either playing or watching. COVID has most definitely changed that. Even if our mental health has been challenged and we are in need of physical activity, is it worth the risk to have a life-long lasting effect such as heart problems to play a team sport?