As governments are issuing COVID-19 deconfinement guidelines, athletes are planning their return to sports and physical activity. Here, we aim to summarize a few guidelines from different organizations to assist in a safe return.

The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) as well as Physical Education Canada have published Guidelines for the children, youth, and adults. Physical activity is essential to mental health and managing stress and anxiety. Reductions in physical activity (detraining) can have negative effects on the cardio-vascular system, the immune system, self-worth, and more.

If an athlete has recovered from COVID-19, an evaluation is in order. Sports cardiologists warn that cardiac involvement occurred even in patients without symptoms. This reinforces the importance of subclinical evaluation prior to a full return to activity.

Detraining also affects sports vision, the ability to maximizing athletic performance through enhanced hand-eye coordination, reaction time, peripheral awareness, single and multiple object tracking, motor planning, decision making and processing speed.  Prior to a full return the athletes should prepare to be “game-ready”, and practice exercises that include their vision. This for injury prevention just as much as it does for performance improvement.

7 Steps to a Healthy Return

  1. Stay active while practicing physical distancing (2 metres apart).
  2. Include more individual pursuits than traditional team activities, such as dance, alternative environment and land-based activities, exercises without equipment, fitness, mindfulness, gymnastics, and target games.
  3. For small-sized games, use visual guides to define space and ensure physical distancing is maintained. For example, use tape or ropes on floors, grass or sidewalks, and signs on walls.
  4. Use outdoor spaces and parks as much as possible.
  5. Practice eye movement exercises to improve vision. Such exercises may include tracking objects, quick eye movements, incorporating optokinetic or distracting backgrounds, etc.
  6. Increase the demand of vision training by adding cognitive, balance or head movement.
  7. Follow up with functional, sports-specific, movements.

Proper hygiene is also recommended:

  • If equipment must be used, avoid sharing equipment by numbering and assigning each person their own supplies. Make sure the equipment has been properly disinfected after each use and not touched after disinfection,
  • Incorporate proper hand washing and personal hygiene routines, do not share water bottles, food utensils or clothes such as team jerseys, etc.,
  • Disinfect teaching aids (clipboards, white boards, pens, plastic bins for transporting materials etc.)