NFHS releases recommendations for reopening school sports

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) on Tuesday, May 19 released a series of guidelines and recommendations for its 51-member state high school organizations to consider as they prepare for the reopening of high school athletics.

This guidance document, developed by the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, is a 16-page road map for how schools can plan for a return to sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFHS lists of precautionary measures that must take place before any contact play resumes and says that until a valid treatment or vaccine is available, or herd immunity is reached, preventive measures such as social distancing and face coverings should be used if practices or games are to take place in the fall.
Photo: Harris Walker

Much like the White House’s guidelines to reopening the states, the NFHS has a plan consisting of three phases that should be reached before a full return to sports while splitting all high school sports into three categories based on risk level. Recommendations from local health and government officials would also be used to determine to move through each phase.

Low-risk sports are defined by the NFHS as “sports that can be done with social distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between use by competitors.” Examples of that include running events like cross country, individual swimming, and golf.
Moderate-risk sports are defined as “sports that involve close, sustained contact, but with protective equipment in place that may reduce the likelihood of respiratory particle transmission between participants or intermittent close contact or group sports or sports that use equipment that can’t be cleaned between participants.” Examples include basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, gymnastics, ice hockey, field hockey, tennis, swimming relays, and girls’ lacrosse.
High-risk sports are defined as “sports that involve close, sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and a high probability that respiratory particles will bee transmitted between participants.” Examples include wrestling, football, boys’ lacrosse, competitive cheer, and dance.
The first phase recommends zero equipment sharing and equipment should be properly cleaned after each usage. Gathers of no more than 10 people are required and locker rooms will remain closed.
The second phase will allow up to 50 people to gather outdoors and 10 people indoors with social distancing for workouts. Locker rooms can reopen at this stage. All student-athletes will be screened for symptoms prior to practices or workouts. At this time the lower-risk sports will be allowed to resume and modified practices for moderate-risk sports can also return.
The third and final phase allows for up to 50 people for outdoor and indoor activities. Student-athletes should maintain three to six-feet of distance when not involved in competition or workouts. Moderate-risk sports can resume and higher-risk sports can hold modified practices.

Athletes, coaches, officials, event staff, medical staff, and security are considered “essential” personnel while media is characterized as “preferred.” Spectators and vendors are considered “non-essential.”

Only essential and preferred personnel will be allowed at events until restrictions on mass gatherings are lifted.

To read the full list of guidelines documenting the reopening of high school athletes from the NFHS, click here