As America approaches half a year in lockdown, cooped-up questions like “Is it safe to play sports?” feel just as natural as “Where is the end of Netflix?”
While there’s no catch-all answer that applies to all sports, there’s still plenty of safe physical activity that’ll give you an opportunity to coordinate your best moisture-wicking leggings with your freshest mask. Just make sure to let experts like the CDC be your referees.
COVID-19 and Sports: The Basics
Just because you’re on the court, track or field, that doesn’t change the bulk of the basic coronavirus safety guidelines recommended by the CDC. No matter the sport in question, the nation’s top experts advise staying home when you’re feeling sick, wearing a mask whenever possible, and cleaning your hands before and after all practices and games. Sanitizing with a sanitizer of at least 60 percent alcohol — like the Boomer Naturals Hand Sanitizer — should extend to all equipment, too. Shared equipment should be avoided.
Outdoor activities are always preferable to indoor, and small teams are safer than large ones. And though it may be a tough adjustment, try your best to avoid touching your teammates in celebration (no high-fives or butt slaps) or huddling around the sidelines or dugouts. Don’t share towels, make sure everyone brings their own water bottles, and keep the sanitizer handy.
Oh, and remember to go the distance — literally. Social distancing still applies here, so choosing sports that allow you to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet is ideal. Especially in a casual setting, feel free to modify the rules of the game to accommodate this (you’ll still get your workout and your fun in).
Levels of Risk
The answer to the question “Is it safe to play sports?” works on sort of a sliding scale, based on the number of participants, the physical distance, the length of the interaction, and other factors. Though following safety guidelines helps reduce that risk, it’s up to the players and organizers to assess the specific risk factor for each unique event. Luckily, the CDC handily breaks down the risk scale as follows:
- Lowest risk: Practicing at home by yourself or with others of the same household
- Increasing risk: Engaging in team-based practice
- More risk: Playing competitive sports within your team
- Higher risk: Partaking in competition among teams from the same geographic area, such as your county or city
- Highest risk: Engaging in competitive sports among teams from different geographic areas, such as those outside of your county, city or state
As you can see, the risk increases as you open up sports activities to wider groups. Here, the concept of social bubbles or “quarantine pods,” as recommended by health experts such as MIT Medical, can really come in handy. In this case, a group of about 10 or fewer individuals all agree to limit their in-person activities to each other and establish precautions for everyone to follow when outside of the group. For safety’s sake, consider making your team and your quarantine pod one and the same.
Recommended Sports and Activities
Based on the guidelines we’ve covered so far, you can probably guess that not all sports are equal when it comes to safety in the time of COVID-19. Sports like football and wrestling pose the highest amount of risk, according to American Medical Association award-winner Kelli Miller of WebMD. Classics like baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, volleyball and swimming fall into the moderate risk category.
What about the lowest risk? That category belongs to pastimes like golf, weightlifting, individual swimming, cycling, cross-country and other running events with staggered starts, throwing events, skiing and tennis (provided you wear masks and thoroughly clean your equipment). That’s plenty of opportunity to stay on the ball while you stay healthy.