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When Dr. Tom Lamarre, medical director for infectious diseases at the Christ Hospital Network, saw that Gov. Mike DeWine will allow high school sports this fall in Ohio, he knew there was no guarantee that fall sports seasons would be completed. 

Sports go as the community goes, Lamarre said.

In an interview with The Enquirer, Lamarre said it’s possible for sports to continue throughout the fall, but it will take specific actions from the athletes and their communities.

“I think it can be done, but it really requires responsibility by the participants to be doing everything they can to limit their exposure outside the team setting to minimize the risk of bringing asymptomatic infection to the team,” Lamarre said. 

Lamarre said it’s critical to monitor the conditions of every player on the roster to prevent asymptomatic transmission, especially for football teams that have 22 players on the field at the same time who are in close proximity to each other. 

More: Contact sport or not, what will keep high school cross country runners safe in 2020?

“Some sports are very safe like tennis, golf and outdoor sports that you easily have social distancing and minimal close contact.,” Lamarre said. “When you talk about sports such as soccer, there’s some contact, but there’s a lot of social distancing and not consistent contact. When you look at football, that’s the real concern because you have a large number of kids. You need to have them socially distanced, you need hygiene protocols and you need to be constantly cleaning the equipment.”

Colerain running back Amere Shannon runs for an 85-yard touchdown run during their scrimmage against Fairfield, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020 (Photo: TONY TRIBBLE FOR THE ENQUIRER)

Lamarre’s recommendations align with the guidelines created by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Society For Sports Medicine and National Athletic Trainers’ Association. These three organizations conducted a study that included more than 1,500 parent respondents, and they learned almost 70 percent of parents had youth athletes that were already playing or intended to let their child participate fully as soon as sports return. 

Even though so many athletes are participating in sports, more than 96 percent of respondents said they would appreciate more guidance on how to return to sports as safely as possible during the pandemic.  

The study recommended athletes complete safety checklists before every competition and wear face coverings as often as possible, and they created a three-part webinar for parents to learn more.

“We know children benefit from sports in ways that go above and beyond fitness, and it’s important to make sure these activities are done safely,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Sara Goza. “Parents will need to ask questions, based on their child’s sport of choice, that take into account safety measures, such as physical distancing, whether equipment is shared and if activities are outdoors or indoors. These are just a few of the questions that the experts are addressing to help families make the right decisions for themselves.”

Lamarre said the most important thing for an athlete to do is avoid large social gatherings with people not wearing masks or social distancing. 

Many schools are keeping students separated and enforcing mask-wearing, providing a more regulated environment for students. Outside of the classroom, Lamarre said it’s critical for athletes to follow the same guidelines.

“If you can’t quarantine a team from behavior outside practice or games, then you really have a significant risk of someone bringing it in asymptomatically to the team,” Lamarre said. “Even if you do all of the things you need to do, that risk is going to be increased as you have people that are not adhering to the appropriate risk mitigation.”