The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) released guidelines this week for its 51 member state high school associations to consider when deciding when to resume athletics and other extracurricular activities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance document, released Monday, was developed by the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, a 15-member advisory committee composed of medical doctors, certified athletics trainers, high school coaches and officials, research specialists and state high school association executives. Dr. Michael Koester, chair of the NFHS committee, stressed that the guidance developed by the committee is intended as ideas for state associations to consider in designing return-to-activity plans.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association is a NFHS member, but is not bound by the guidelines, which would be superseded by state and local regulations. The NFHS guidance document describes a staged approach to re-opening high school sports and other activities, similar to the phases of “opening up” outlined by the White House in April.
High school spring sports were halted by the NCHSAA after contests held March 13 and basketball state championship games were not played. The association announced this month that it will suspend the coronavirus-related dead period June 1, but that does not mean sports workouts at its member schools will resume then. The NCHSAA said state and local governments, including the governor and local school districts, must first approve the resumption of athletics.
The guidance developed for state associations by the NFHS suggests a possible sport breakdown for higher risk, moderate risk and lower risk, with the basis for the breakdown tied to the potential exposure to respiratory droplets that may carry the virus.
Lower-risk sports in which NCHSAA athletes compete include: cross country running with staggered starts, golf, individual running events, throwing events, individual swimming, sideline cheerleading and weightlifting.
Moderate-risk sports include: baseball, basketball, field hockey, girls lacrosse, gymnastics, high jump, pole vault, soccer, softball, swimming relays, tennis, volleyball and 7-on-7 football.
Higher-risk sports include: boys lacrosse, competitive cheer and dance, football and wrestling.
“We believe this guidance document will be a tremendous resource for our member state associations as they determine the timetables for re-opening sports and activities,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director. “The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee utilized recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as some return-to-play considerations by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), in formulating this guidance document for re-opening athletics and other activities in our nation’s schools.”
The NFHS guidance document also addresses a possible progression for returning to activities, hygiene practices, transportation to and from events, social-distancing suggestions during contests and a tiered approach to who should be allowed to attend events.
The “Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities” document can be accessed here.