Commentary

Returning to play and exercise: Safety tips without the perfect playbook

Several states announced that they will gradually start reducing the physical and social distancing measures currently in place. That means that there’s the possibility of return to fitness and sport activities. No one has a playbook on exactly how to do this, so you’ll likely find many different state and local regulations on how this will be done.

We should all be aware though that this won’t be like flipping a light switch and turn everything back on the way it was before the virus restrictions. No, much more likely are modified restrictions on physical distancing and strong attention to hygiene.

How fast gyms reopen and team practices resume will be complicated, but for everyone who’s been going a bit bonkers there’s now a light at the end of the tunnel.


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Team Sports

When the shelter-in-place restrictions are eased, much of the responsibility for maintaining hygiene will fall to the team coach. I expect that local leagues will pass on policy that they received from their parent organizations about hand sanitizer use before and after practice, and at least initially I also expect restrictions on how many players can be in one area at a time, and team practice sessions will likely be staggered. From what I’ve heard, most sports plan non-contact training for the near future.

My advice: If you’re attending a team practice I’d recommend wearing gloves during the practice and be sure to wash them and your training clothes promptly after practice. And be very aware of keeping appropriate distance between you and everyone else around you.

Individual Sports

News is better here, as individual sports such as tennis and golf will likely have an easier time putting sanitization and spacing requirements into play. In our county, golf courses will reopen next week with increased spacing between tee times, no bunker rakes, no ball washers, and no touching of flagsticks. As far as I can tell, tennis will also resume soon. As odd as it may be, I’d recommend tennis players also use gloves and wash them postgame.

Gyms and Group Fitness

There’s a lot of uncertainty about reopening gyms and group fitness classes. The gym owners I’ve spoken to are all deeply committed to making their facilities as clean as possible with strict regular cleaning schedules planned.

All are planning some form of limited access in order to try and keep the spacing distances in the gym. You should also expect to sign some type of strict liability waiver, have your temperature taken each time you go, and you’ll be required to wear a mask.

I’d also recommend you use weight training or cycling gloves and wash them after each use.

Even in states such as Georgia, where gyms and fitness centers were allowed to open last week there’s quite a bit of uncertainty. The state’s rules spell out 16 different measures the individual gym needs to do in order to reopen.

Be Safe And Embrace The Return Of Sport And Fitness

We’ll be moving slowly into the next phase of our new normal. For everyone who’s missed their teammates and workout routines we’ll move on to the next transition together. Put a smile on your face, we’ll get through this.

Key Points:
Team sports, individual sports, and fitness facilities will slowly begin reopening.
There is no standard playbook for how to deal with reopening; state and local authorities will draft guidelines.
Regardless of the sport, individual participants should pay strict attention to physical spacing and hand sanitization.

(Dr. Dev K. Mishra, a Clinical Assistant Professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University and Medical Director of Apeiron Life, is the creator of the SidelineSportsDoc.com online injury management course and the Good to Go injury assessment App for coaches, managers, parents and players. Mishra writes about injury recognition and management at SidelineSportsDoc.com blog, where this article originally appeared.)

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