NFHS revises guidance on COVID-19 transmission during high school sports contests

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has revised previous guidance on COVID-19 transmission during high school sports contests, the organization announced on Tuesday. Their revised guidance eliminates the tiered “Potential Infection Risk by Sport” system that placed sports in high, medium and low-risk categories.

The NFHS chose to change its guidance – originally released in May – and remove the tier system because “as knowledge of the virus that causes COVID-19 has evolved, we have increasingly recognized that transmission depends upon multiple factors that cannot be easily accounted for by simply dividing sports into three distinct categories of risk,” their announcement reads.  

The NFHS’ Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommends state associations, health agencies and governments consider five factors in assessing potential for COVID-19 transmission in high school sports:

Two of those factors are that prevailing community infection rates appear to be the strongest predictor for high school athletes being infected, and proven cases of direct COVID-19 transmission during athletics remain relatively rare.  

The other recommended factors to consider are that participants in non-contact sports show lower rates of COVID-19 infection than those in contact sports, participants in outdoor sports show lower rates of infection than those in indoor sports, and using face masks for indoor sports results in similar COVID-19 transmission rates to those seen in outdoor sports…

…The final factor for consideration moving forward is based on accumulating evidence that the majority of sports-related spread of COVID-19 appears to occur from social contact, not during sports participation.

Read the NFHS’ full release here.

California had adopted tiers for specific high school sports to return based partly on NFHS guidance. Right now, all counties in Southern California are in the most restrictive purple tier. Since the guidance has changed, California’s return to play plan may change.

Read more about California’s tiered return to play system here.

Members of the Golden State Football Coaches Community and Let Them Play CA, an organization of parents, coaches and student athletes, will meet with Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services, this week to discuss bringing back high school sports in the state.

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