Return of high school sports next year possible, but poses health concerns

From cheering in the Black Hole during Friday night football games to squaring off with another tennis player across the court, sports have been a part of the Westview experience for the body and athletes alike. But with COVID-19 causing the closure of schools in March, all spring sports were cancelled, and possibly next year’s fall and winter sports as well. 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets, usually in the form of coughs, sneezing, and even speaking. Furthermore, studies show that it also spreads in close spaces and large crowds. Both of these scenarios happen frequently in high school sports and in the crowds watching them. 

In sports like football, players are constantly making contact with each other, lining up close to each other on the scrimmage line and breathing heavily during plays. Respiratory droplets can easily be spread when players are making contact with each other, with droplets most likely landing on the players gear or directly on their body. 

On top of this is the small, confined space of the locker room. Football or other contact sports would be a perfect storm for COVID-19 to spread. There are other sports that have similar problems, such as basketball or wrestling, which have prolonged body contact and equipment that the virus could contaminate. If these kinds of sports are able to start up again with the virus still present, it could seriously endanger athletes’ health. 

The future looks bleak for contact sports being played next year, but certain athletes may still be able to play their sports next season. 

Sports like tennis, baseball, badminton, golf, and others all have the potential to continue next year. Activities like golf and tennis involve only a few people at a time, limiting proximity and therefore exposure, and the only real contact is through touching the ball. Distance is already inherent in sports like baseball and racket sports, lowering the chance of respiratory particles landing on other athlete’s gear or body. 

It’s possible for certain sports to continue next year, but within that possibility is the challenge of how to keep both athletes and coaches safe, which could prove difficult from a logistics standpoint. Gear would have to be regularly sanitized, locker rooms deep-cleaned, transportation would have to be in individual cars instead of buses or carpools, and distancing kept as much as possible. 

While it would be easy for large professional organizations like Major League Baseball or the National Basketball League to carry out these tasks, it may be more difficult for high schools to muster the needed resources and manpower to make these necessary changes happen. 

Despite these possible challenges, Westview plans on having sports at the beginning of the school year. 

“We [Westview athletic department] are planning as if we will have sports in the fall but no official word has been given by our district, conference or CIF yet,” athletic director Steve McLaughlin said.We are ready to make adjustments based on the ever changing guidelines so that students can use sports to learn, compete, socialize and exercise again.”

If school administration can plan accordingly for these activities and athletes take personal responsibility for their health, sports may be able to make a return for next year’s seasons.