The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends physical distancing of six-feet between people, the wearing of personal protective masks and regular hand sanitizing as fundamental interventions that prevent the spread of COVID-19. These interventions have become widely adopted, and US Lacrosse believes that lacrosse programs should adopt these interventions to the extent practicable.
COVID-19 has the potential to cause serious illness and death in people of all ages and genders in all communities. Those who are immunocompromised, have co-morbid medical conditions and/or are over the age of 65 are at greatest risk. At the present time, testing and contact tracking are not widely available, effective treatments have not been developed, and a vaccine is not expected to be widely available for the foreseeable future. Additionally, while children appear to be at a lower risk to contract the virus, there is growing concern that they can be asymptomatic carriers who can expose their respective parents and siblings to infection. Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate the risk of infection in this pandemic. Therefore, the goals of a safe return to play must focus on mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission, quickly identifying and removing participants who may have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 (and managing appropriately), and limiting the participation of vulnerable and at-risk populations. US Lacrosse and RPS Bollinger Insurance have developed guidelines and FAQs for the insurance response to coronavirus. These address the specific insurance coverages provided through the US Lacrosse Membership Insurance Plan and how they will respond to claims arising from exposure or transmission of COVID-19. The guidelines can be found on https://www.uslacrosse.org/return-to-play. Lacrosse program leaders who obtain insurance outside the US Lacrosse Membership Insurance Plan should consult with their respective insurance carriers to understand the coverages in place and related risk factors to the organization and its participants as respects the pandemic. Once the risks of participation are understood and a return to play plan is established to mitigate those risks, the organization should effectively communicate the plan and ensure plan compliance.
Nationally, many sports organizations have developed their own return to play guidelines related to COVID-19, each of which emphasize a graduated return to play, physical distancing and, when possible/available, the appropriate use of screening, testing and tracking tools. Essential to the development and successful implementation of a return to play plan is the need to evolve and innovate the lacrosse experience to assure that infection risks are mitigated while embracing the opportunity to evolve the traditional youth lacrosse experience. This evolution had already begun to take root prior to the pandemic through implementation of small-sided play, independent skills development and more holistic goals for the youth sports experience. US Lacrosse has established an Athlete Development Model (ADM) https://www.uslacrosse.org/athlete-development that focuses on providing young athletes with a fun lacrosse experience that is based on their stage of physical, cognitive and emotional development. US Lacrosse offers many ADM resources online that coaches, parents and programs can use as the foundation of a return to play plan.
The risks of athletic participation and differences among low-to-high-risk sports is unclear. However, COVID-19 infection risk associated with occasional close quarters and incidental contact in a fast-paced outdoor athletic activity would appear to be less than the “grouping” activities that have always been part of structured practice sessions. Young players huddled together for instruction or groups of non-participating players socializing on the sidelines represent greater infection risks and are examples of traditional practice plans that must be eliminated.
Until a vaccine or effective treatments are found, exposure time within a group setting must be limited to reduce infection risk. Therefore, practices should be efficiently planned to maximize player movement and minimize “together time.” Young players can work on individual skill development independently or with parents or other players in their community. Some coaching instruction should be delivered on-line, before or after group practice sessions. Players need to arrive at practice sessions promptly, dressed and prepared. Kids need to be moving constantly throughout practice. The goal for programs and coaches is to provide a safer environment based on best public health practices, come to that environment prepared, train efficiently in group activities, get out of the group environment as quickly as reasonable, and stay connected with your team in a variety of low-risk ways in between practice sessions.
There is a growing urgency for the return of sport in America, some of which is fueled by parental expectations, player aspirations, the financial pressures of youth sports organizations and businesses. Despite these circumstances, young athletes must be provided with a supportive program focused on their health and welfare…not just their value to others. Kids play sports because they are fun. Let’s help them find that again in the safest manner possible.
This set of return to play recommendations are designed to create and promote innovative, athlete- centered, developmentally appropriate and graduated lacrosse programming and activities that allow for a staged return to play based on federal, state and local public health guidelines and best practices. Lacrosse players and coaches are eager to return to the field as soon as possible. In order to achieve that goal, programs need to adapt the lacrosse experience in order to assure that the health and safety of all participants remain the highest priority
The following CDC recommendations should be followed, regardless of the Return to Play stage in your community, county or state.
They currently include:
Stay at home if you are feeling sick or experiencing the following COVID-19 symptoms: People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Fever of 100.3 degrees F/37.9 degrees C
New loss of taste or smell
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Other less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and equipment (including balls, mouthguards, sticks, water bottles, helmets, eyewear, pads, uniform)
No sharing of equipment, water bottles, towels
Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing “Happy Birthday” twice) or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
Have sanitizing options available, including, but not limited to hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.
If capability exists, temperature of participants should be taken using an infrared thermometer. Anyone with a temperature of 100.3 degrees or more should be sent home and evaluated by a licensed medical professional before being cleared to participate.
Arrive dressed and ready to train.
Minimize use of changing rooms, bathrooms, communal areas.
Eat off-site. Bring own water bottle.
Any tasks that can be done at home, should be done at home (recovery sessions, online meetings).
Cover your mouth and nose with elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Follow the public health guidance of the host location for the lacrosse activity, when determining what necessary return to play and risk mitigation plan to follow.
Each program should assign a designated safety or hygiene coordinator as the point of contact for all COVID-19 information, education and hygiene protocols. (See resources)
Establish a CAP (COVID-19 Action Plan), to determine what steps you need to take, should an athlete, coach, or family member get sick or test positive for COVID-19. (See appendix for sample CAP)
Consistent with applicable law and privacy policies, have coaches, staff, umpires/officials, and families of players (as feasible) self-report to the youth sports organization if they have COVID-19, a positive test for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days in accordance with other applicable laws and regulations. Notify staff, officials, families, and the public of youth sports facility closures and restrictions in place to limit COVID-19 exposure.