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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Sports & Activities

Thanks in part to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for adults and kids 6 months old and up, life is getting back to normal for many families. That includes a return to sports and physical activity for kids and teens. But the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so it’s important to know how to protect active kids and young athletes.

How Can Parents Help Keep Kids Safe?

Before your child starts a sport or activity, ask about the rules and expectations, and review them with your child. Weigh the risks of COVID-19 with the benefits of your child being active. What your family chooses is a personal decision.

Here are some ways to make sports and physical activity safer:

  • All kids and adults should get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot when they are eligible.
  • To prevent injuries, kids who haven’t been very active over the pandemic should start slowly and work their way up to the desired intensity.
  • Kids should have their own equipment, when possible. This might include bats, balls, protective gear, water bottles, hand sanitizer, and towels. Label all equipment and personal items.
  • Players should wash their hands well and often, including before going to practice and after touching shared equipment. Pack hand sanitizer, especially if soap and water aren't available.

What About Masks?

Wearing masks in crowded settings is still an important way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks are no longer required in many public places in the U.S., but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) still recommends wearing masks during sports and activities:

  • that are indoors and in areas of the country with high rates of COVID-19 infections. This is recommended for all people, even if they're vaccinated and boosted, including people on the sidelines, such as coaches and spectators.
  • for people who have weak immune systems or other health conditions that put them at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19

It’s good practice in general for athletes to wear masks in crowded areas, such as locker rooms, sidelines, or shared transportation.

  • Players should not wear masks when they do:
    • water sports
    • sports where the mask could get caught on equipment or cover the eyes (like gymnastics or cheerleading)
    • wrestling, unless closely monitored by an adult who can make sure that the masks won’t become choking hazards

What About Kids Who Are Sick or Have Symptoms of COVID-19?

Kids should not play sports or exercise if they are sick or if they test positive for the coronavirus, even if they don’t have symptoms. Let the doctor know that your child is sick or has tested positive for the virus, and ask when your child can go back to sports and activities.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Kids with no symptoms or mild symptoms (like fever or body aches that only last a couple of days) might only need a call to or telehealth visit with the doctor. Sometimes the doctor will ask to see the child in person to do some tests.
  • Kids with moderate symptoms of COVID-19 should see their doctor in person for an exam and an EKG or other tests to make sure their heart is healthy before they do any exercise. This includes kids who:
    • had a fever for more than 4 days
    • had symptoms like muscle aches, chills, or tiredness for more than a week
    • were in the hospital with COVID-19 (but not in the ICU)
      If tests show the child’s heart is healthy, the doctor will offer advice on how to slowly return to physical activity. Usually, this means being symptom-free for a certain amount of time.
  • Kids who were very sick with COVID-19, such as those with MIS-C or who were treated in the ICU, will need to see a cardiologist (heart specialist) before they go back to sports or exercise. They will likely need to wait 3 to 6 months before a slow return to physical activity.

Any child who had a coronavirus infection should watch for these symptoms when they're playing sports or being active:

  • chest pain
  • trouble breathing
  • palpitations (a feeling like the heart is racing or pounding, or has skipped a beat)
  • feeling dizzy or passing out

Kids who have any of these symptoms should stop what they’re doing right away. They need to see a doctor, who will check their heart.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Aug 10, 2022

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