WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Monday marks the much anticipated return to the practice field for Forsyth County High School athletes.
It is the first time for them to hit the field since the spring, and the first step for medical experts to see if the safety precautions put in place will work.
As players begin practicing, they will be limited to practice for only 45 minutes, they can be no more than 25 people to one practice group – that includes coaches, and they must have no physical contact yet.
Doctor Heath Thornton, a Wake Forest Baptist Health Sports Medicine expert, stressed that these procedures will develop as the season goes along. How and when that happens depends on the players on and off the field.
“It’s really difficult to control everything that the athletes do once they leave the practice field,” Dr. Thornton explained. This is one of the reasons why practice will move slower.
As a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, practice squads will also have an on site medical trainer who will check the temperatures of players and coaches at practice, will ask screening questions and will monitor the works for risks of infections.
“We’ll have to just monitor the area as a whole to make sure if the cases start increasing…and if the athletes start getting sick, we may need to see some backing off,” Thornton said.
Much of the offseason during the pandemic has involved schools analyzing what their major needs are.
For both rural and urban school campuses that includes large supplies of hand sanitizers, wipes and personal water bottles.
Christopher Ina, the manager of Athletic Training Services with Wake Forest Baptist Health, said, “When we looked at the guidelines, some of the simples things, like how do kids get water at practice. How do we do that? We can’t have one water jug and everyone going up to it.”
Taking it slow in practice is not just to stop the spread of the virus, but to address the concern that some players are at a greater risk of getting injured this year.
“We realize that some of these kids haven’t been exercising as much recently,” Dr. Thornton said. “They go several months without actually participating in any physical activity. There’s going to be a lot of de-conditioning that is going to put kids with medical problems at risk.”