NFHS Revises Guidance on COVID-19 Transmission During High School Sports

After evaluating experiences of schools participating in high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) has revised its May 2020 guidance document with a new Statement on Risk of COVID-19 During High School Sports.   

nfhsHighlighting the revised guidance is the elimination of the tiered “Potential Infection Risk by Sport” that placed sports in high-, medium- and low-risk categories. Instead, the SMAC suggests that state associations and other stakeholders consider five factors in assessing the potential for COVID-19 transmission in high school sports.  

Two of those factors are that prevailing community infection rates appear to be the strongest predictor for high school athletes being infected, and proven cases of direct COVID-19 transmission during athletics remain relatively rare.  

“Though we have to be concerned about transmission of the virus first and foremost, we also must consider the mental health of students who have been unable to play sports thus far this year,” Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director, said in an issued press release.

The other recommended factors to consider are that participants in non-contact sports show lower rates of COVID-19 infection than those in contact sports, participants in outdoor sports show lower rates of infection than those in indoor sports and using face masks for indoor sports results in similar COVID-19 transmission rates to those seen in outdoor sports 

Regarding the discontinuation of the high-, moderate- and low-risk categories, the committee noted that as “knowledge of the virus that causes COVID-19 has evolved, we have increasingly recognized that transmission depends upon multiple factors that cannot be easily accounted for by simply dividing sports into three distinct categories of risk.”

Additionally, the NFHS has been tracking modifications of the winter sports season by varying state associations across the nation. To view those modifications, click here