Doctor discusses path to safe return for players, teams after pausing seasons due to COVID-19

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 8:35 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Several recent situations across high schools in Kansas involve sports teams, especially football programs, having to pause their seasons due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 among players.

A few weeks ago, Andover Central had to cancel its game against Buhler because a player tested positive for COVID-19. Andover Central is back to playing with a full, healthy roster, but several high school football teams in the state are facing similar situations, having to pause their seasons due to confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“The biggest thing is preparing those kids to come back after they’ve been gone for a time,” Andover Central Athletic Director Doug Carr said after the Jaguars' season got back on track.

But when is it safe for teams to return to action after stopping practices and games due to COVID-19?Friday Eyewitness News spoke with a doctor in sports medicine for insight.

Once a student-athlete recovers from COVID-19 (even if they didn’t exhibit symptoms), the Kansas State High School Activities Association has steps they must take before they return. This starts with 10 days of isolation. Even after the student-athlete finishes isolation, they’re not yet ready to return to the field. First, they need written clearance from a doctor.

“It’s important for these students to get back to sports and get back in the game,” Ascension Via Christi sports medicine physician, Dr. Drew Porter said.

While getting back to being involved is good for children and teens, Dr. Porter said athletes that test positive for COVID-19 should see a doctor before they return to sports.

“There’s the potential that coronavirus may cause myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle,” he said.

Dr. Porter’s patients have been okay, but the severity and length of COVID-19 symptoms could indicate heart damage.

“More significant symptoms that lasted for a longer period of time, or maybe they were hospitalized. That’s when we look at, 'they definitely need some cardiovascular testing done,” he said.

When students get the green light to start training again, Dr. Porter said they should start slowly, even if they weren’t seriously ill from COVID-19.

KSHSAA has a five-stage process for gradual returns. It starts with light activity and gradually increases to full intensity and length over six days.

The goal:

“We want the athlete to be safe. We want the team and coaches to be safe as well,” Dr. Porter said.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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