Considerations for Recreational Sports

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. Indoor and outdoor sports activities pose minimal risk for fully vaccinated individuals. 

For people who are not yet fully vaccinated, CDC recommends that participants consider the following Guidance for Playing Sports.

During times of substantial COVID-19 activity in a community,  participating in recreational sports that involve close contact with others may increase risk of COVID-19 transmission and is not advisable. This is especially true with large events. Consider the extent of community transmission in a region/locality when deciding whether to participate.  During times of significantly increasing disease spread, organizers of such events should consider cancelling or postponing competition in favor of lesser risk activities such as low-contact drills or practices.  

VDH recommends unvaccinated athletes, coaches, and officials to wear masks at all times during group training, competition, and on the sidelines.

For unvaccinated persons, wearing masks is especially important during indoor competition and practices. Wearing masks is also important in shared spaces such as locker rooms, and during shared transportation (including carpooling) to/from an event. Masks should also be worn by unvaccinated coaches, officials, spectators and volunteers at all times and coaches and/or officials should monitor proper use.  Individual outdoor sports that do not involve close contact (e.g. golf, singles tennis, etc) may not necessitate wearing a mask.  Masks are generally well tolerated by the majority of persons who wear them during exercise; however the masks may need to be removed under certain circumstances (e.g. if the masks become wet).  There are some sports in which the mask could become a choking hazard or inadvertently impair vision and should not be worn, such as cheerleading-tumbling/stunting, gymnastics, wrestling and water sports.

 Travel outside of a local community and participating in large events such as tournaments may increase risk of COVID-19 transmission. Consider the extent of community transmission in a region/locality when deciding whether to participate in or host a tournament or similar event.  Localities or regions experiencing substantial COVID-19 transmission should consider delaying or cancelling large events.  Individuals at high risk or whose family members are at high risk for adverse outcomes from COVID-19 should especially consider avoiding travel to areas experiencing substantial transmission.

COVID-19 is also spread off the field.  Close contact in locker rooms, in carpooling, or in other confined spaces are high-risk situations, and should be avoided to the extent possible.  Pre-game meetings and post-game ceremonies should be avoided or modified to allow proper distancing. Handshakes, fist bumps, and other gestures involving close physical contact should be avoided.  Some large events such as marathons and large sports tournaments have attractions such as live music or food vendors.  These additional attractions should be discouraged to minimize large gatherings, and race organizers should encourage people not to congregate at the start and finish of races.

Indoor environments are higher risk environments for spreading COVID-19.  While being outside does not remove the risk of transmitting COVID-19, indoor spaces are higher risk environments for spreading COVID-19 than outdoor environments. This is especially true if spaces are crowded or have poor ventilation. Spectators or other attendees/participants who are shouting and cheering, or having additional activities such as a pep band may increase the risk of spreading COVID-19, and are an additional concern in indoor environments.   Prioritize outdoor play, as opposed to indoor, as much as possible.  

Additional Considerations:

People involved in recreational sports (including family/household members) should consider their household’s level of risk and interaction with other at risk populations when determining whether to participate in recreational sports. Factors that place people (including household members) at higher risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19 include older age and certain medical conditions. Additionally, there may be increased risk to others outside of the household if a household member routinely comes into close contact with elderly persons, provides professional caregiving, or works in congregate settings.