Youth Sports during the COVID-19 Response – ThedaCare Provider Gives Safety Tips for Participation

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COVID-19 has and continues to have a huge impact on all of our lives. Currently, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has recommended all youth sports be cancelled or postponed this summer due to spreading COVID-19.

“It is important for all, parents and children, to engage in daily activity for our overall physical and mental health,” said Stephanie Piwoni CPNP, APNP at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah. “There are still ways to be active as a family including going on walks and bike rides.”

Piwoni explained that many people with children who play sports are interested, worried and anxious as to when and how to proceed with youth sports. She emphasized that safety must be the priority when determining when and how to return to youth sports and group fitness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends administrators of youth sports organizations consult with state and local health officials to determine if it is safe to play and what safety standards need to be put in place to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection and spread of illness.

“In order for youth sports to safely resume, we need to consider the risks of the community, as well as the risks for each particular sport,” Piwoni said. “We understand sports are a way of life for many families, and we want to help continue those activities in a safe way.”

If youth sports are resuming in your area and you, as the parent, are considering having your child participate in summer sports, here are some things to consider or ask.

  • What will sport play look like? Lower risk youth activities include sports that are played outside with social distancing applied for athletes as well as spectators. Groups should be limited to less than 10. Sport-appropriate drills, which can maintain the 6 foot distance, are safer activities than participating in scrimmages/games where the athletes are more likely to have close contact with others.
  • Where will play take place? Activities outdoors are lower risk than indoor gatherings. Also, geographic location/distance needs to be considered. Will there be team competition (games/scrimmages/tournaments)? If so, are the teams competing from the same area or traveling from different areas that could include a hot spot? There is less risk with teams from the same town/county to play than for teams to travel across state or out of state.
  • What safety measures are going to be implemented? Youth sports should have a plan and protocol to minimize spread of this disease. This should include masking guidelines, handwashing/hand sanitizer supplies and recommendations, cleaning of sport equipment protocol, how to handle snacks/drinks, drop off/pick up guidelines, etc.

“The more people a child or coach interacts with, the closer the physical  interaction, the more sharing of equipment there is by multiple players, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread,” explained Piwoni.

As families weigh whether participation in youth sports is right for their family, the CDC has determined a risk assessment guide:

  • For the Lowest Risk: Performing skill-building drills or conditioning at home, alone or with family members.
  • For an Increased Risk: Team-based practice.
  • Even More Risk: Team competition and competition between teams from the same local geographic area.
  • Highest Risk: Full competition between teams from different geographic areas.

“It is also important for athletes to take the time to get back up to speed or conditioned for their sport,” Piwoni said. “Many of our youth athletes have been more sedentary the last couple of months. If they return without appropriate conditioning, they are at greater risk of injury.”

Screening should be done prior to any youth sport gathering, whether it is a drill/work-out or competition. If there has been known close COVID-19 contact OR the athlete has any illness signs or symptoms, the athlete should not be present at youth sports.

“Ultimately, families must to decide what is best for their own family,” she said. “Weigh risk factors, and take into account the benefit of physical and mental health that is directly connected to sport. Only participate if you feel safe and comfortable.” 

Meet the Author – Stephanie Piwoni, CPNP, APNP with ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah

I enjoy pediatrics because I like watching your children grow from infants to adolescents and achieve new milestones throughout the years. I also enjoy working with your unique family to create a plan of care that will be effective for your child.

That effectiveness grows from good communication. At every office visit I listen to you and your child. Then I do my best to clearly and thoroughly explain your child’s plan of care. That way, you leave the clinic feeling like you were heard and knowing how to proceed. When we all work together, your entire family sees the benefit.

Thedacare & Go Valley Kids

ThedaCare and Go Valley Kids are teaming up in 2020 to help families be healthier, more active and enjoy Northeast and Central Wisconsin.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to a community of more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs more than 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 locations including seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, New London, Shawano, Waupaca and Wild Rose. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health care organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.


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