The National Federation of State High School Associations on Tuesday released a series of guidelines and recommendations for its 51-member state high school organizations to consider as they prepare for the reopening of high school athletics.
The guidance document was developed by the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, a 15-member advisory group composed of medical doctors, certified athletic trainers, high school coaches and officials, research specialists and state high school association executives that regularly develops position statements related to medical aspects of conducting high school athletics.
“This document is a tremendous template for us as we consider some of these items,” said New York State Public High School Athletic Association executive director Robert Zayas, who serves on the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
Zayas last week announced the membership of a NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force that will be studying the NFHS guidelines for potential application beginning with the fall sports season. The Task Force will meet for the first time in early to mid-June, Zayas said.
“This is a wonderful tool,” Zayas said of the NFHS recommendations. “From the document, we can take guidance on matters that we may ultimately put into practice.”
The NFHS document offers recommendations and guidelines on a wide variety of subjects, including COVID-19 testing and screening for student-athletes, coaches and officials; student-athlete physicals; hygiene practices; the use of face coverings; team transportation to and from contests; social distancing measures; gathering limitations; sharing of equipment; and the cleaning of equipment and athletic facilities.
“Two months ago, information was changing every hour,” NYSPHSAA Task Force committee member and Shenendehowa High School athletic trainer Rick Knizek recently said. “While things are still fluid, they are not happening at quite a frenetic pace as before, so we now have blocks of time to put plans in place.”
Zayas announced last week that the NYSPHSAA’s aim is to begin the fall sports season Aug. 24. Some winter sport state championship events were canceled due to the coronavirus before the spring sports season was called off before any games were played.
“As of today, that’s what we’re planning,” Zayas said of the Aug. 24 start date. “If things were to change, we would adapt.”
The NYSPHSAA’s quarterly meeting is scheduled for May 27.
“There are no agenda items relating to the COVID-19 crisis,” Zayas said.
The NFHS announcement of its “Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities” document reads in part: “In sharing this guidance document with state high school associations leaders on Monday, Michael Koester, M.D., chair of the NFHS SMAC, stressed that the guidance developed by the committee is intended as ideas for state associations to consider with their respective sports medicine committees and state health departments in designing return-to-activity plans that will be in accordance with state or local restrictions.
“Similar to the manner in which different parts of the country have re-opened ahead of others due to containment levels of the virus, the guidance document was developed with the realization that there likely will be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held from one part of the country to another.
“Along those same lines, the NFHS guidance document describes a staged approach to re-opening high school sports and other activities, similar to the phases of ‘opening up’ outlined by the White House last month. The committee suggests that state high school associations consult with their state and local health departments for determining the appropriate dates for implementing a phased-in approach within their respective states.”
“We are greatly indebted to the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for its work in formulating this guidance for re-opening high school athletics and activities,” NFHS executive director Dr. Karissa Niehoff said in a statement. “It is important to be clear that this is guidance for individual states to consider as they return to activities this fall. States will utilize the guidance in this document as it best fits their state after consulting with local and state health departments.”