The Health Team shares valuable information for participating in athletic endeavors during the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. Updated policy requires that any student who experiences a COVID-19 infection must be medically cleared before returning to PE and school-related sports.
The school year feels like it’s in full swing after a wonderful, healthy start. We’re wrapping up our fifth week of in-person learning and have recorded a total of only seven COVID-19 cases among USN students and faculty. It is pretty remarkable considering the number of cases in our city and state.
One benefit of having a healthy community and a relatively normal school year is the opportunity for students to participate in team sports and athletic events. These activities are a vital part of school and extracurricular life, as well as the mental and physical health of our students. However, we are still living through a pandemic, and our mitigation efforts must continue to preserve our healthy bubble at USN.
Participation in sports can be safe if done thoughtfully and carefully. Outdoor sports with a lot of movement and brief interactions among players tend to be very safe, even for younger children who aren't vaccinated. If those players are in prolonged, close physical contact or gathering on sidelines and benches, masking is recommended, even outdoors.
The highest risk for transmission actually occurs during activities surrounding the games and competitions, such as sharing transportation, indoor meals, hotel rooms, or otherwise socializing in close proximity to people outside of your immediate household. This is especially true for unvaccinated individuals, and it is safest to avoid these situations and to travel only with those from your immediate household if any member is unvaccinated. If transportation must be shared, it is best to wear masks and ride with the windows open, as we do on our school buses at USN. When all parties are vaccinated against COVID-19, some of the risks associated with these activities are alleviated. We are hopeful that the high percentage of vaccinated Tigers will enable them to safely participate in expanded sports-related activities relative to last school year.
Another important consideration in the era of COVID-19 is a safe transition back to physical activity and sports participation following an infection. COVID-19 affects the body in many ways and can even be associated with an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) in some instances. This is one reason the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association has required high school athletes to obtain clearance from their pediatricians prior to a return to play; this was regular practice at USN during the 2020-2021 school year. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently reported that the incidence of myocarditis in children and adolescents is 0.5-3%, but can occur even in asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 infections. It is difficult to predict who will be affected, so they recommend that children of any age receive clearance from their pediatrician before returning to PE and sports after infection; the level of evaluation should be determined by that physician and is typically based on severity of symptoms. The health and wellbeing of your students is our priority, so going forward any USN student who is diagnosed with COVID-19 will be required to have an evaluation by a pediatrician prior to resuming participation in PE and school-related sports.
The Health Team is thankful to our faculty, families, and students for our strong start to the year. The uptake of vaccines among those who are eligible, consistent masking, and the care you take inside and outside of school are critical to the overall health of our entire community. We are hopeful and working hard to continue our COVID-free trend. We appreciate your support and cooperation, as always.