IHSA releases ‘Return to Play’ guidelines

Sports

WCIA — High school athletes can start working out together again as soon as Saturday.

The IHSA announced its ‘Return to Play’ guidelines and protocols on Friday afternoon. The detailed list includes several checklist items but any school in a Phase 3 region can start practicing June 6, with school district approval. The voluntary workouts are limited to three hours per day and officials encourage outdoor activity as much as possible. The entire WCIA 3 viewing area is in Phase 3.

“I commend the IHSA SMAC (Sports Medicine Advisory Committee) for crafting a plan that fits within the framework provided by state leadership, and refuses to compromise safety,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “The IHSA Return to Play Guidelines offer some important first steps in allowing student-athletes to re-acclimate both physically and mentally to athletics, but more importantly, they allow each school to assess their own individual situation and determine if and when they want to proceed.”

There are several restrictions including maintaining social distancing of six feet apart, wearing masks when social distancing isn’t possible, limiting groups to 10 or less including coaches. Once groups are formed, athletes may not switch to another group. Multi-sport athletes are encouraged to workout only with their fall sport at this time.

Only weightlifting or exercises that promote physical fitness will be allowed at this time. All sport specific drills or equipment like footballs are prohibited. Coaches are required to keep a daily log of what athletes are attending and participating, to go along with any symptoms that are present. Temperatures will also be taken, with a less than 100.4 degree reading required to participate.

“Our kids have been without sports and school for over two months, which has taken a toll on their physical and emotional health,” IHSA SMAC member Dr. Cynthia R. LaBella, the Medical Director at Institute for Sports Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine said in the statement released. “We purposely designed this first phase to focus solely on strength and conditioning so that kids can gradually rebuild their fitness levels in small peer groups with coach guidance. This will get kids moving again with their peers in the safest way possible, which will have a huge positive impact on their physical and emotional well-being.”

Equipment cleaning following CDC and IDPH guidelines will be required. Any lift that requires a spotter will also be off limits to honor social distancing requirements. Players must bring their own water bottle, shoes, towels and other personal equipment, with the use of locker rooms, shared water coolers and water fountains prohibited.

Anderson says to expect these guidelines to remain in place until the IHSA or Illinois Department of Health announce further guidelines.

“We will continue to seek input from our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, while following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, on what potentially happens next in late June,” Anderson said.

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