Is it safe to allow contact sports in schools to resume?

Is it safe to allow contact sports in schools to resume?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says he'll soon issue an executive order allowing contact sports in schools to resume.

But many people are wondering if it is safe amid a global pandemic.

A Memphis infectious disease expert said a lot remains unknown about the impact coronavirus could have on student-athletes.

"It's an important part of our community, athletics, and it provides a lot of benefits to our student-athletes," said Lee. "However, we have to remember common sense precautions have to be taken in the midst of COVID-19."

The governor's office worked with the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) to develop guidelines for every fall sport, including football and girls soccer, where players come into close contact.

"We know that they excel and they do much better when they are involved in activities and when they're involved in athletics," said Bernard Childress, the executive director of the TSSAA.

The TSSAA released several pages of guidelines for schools to follow including: requiring temperature checks for all players, coaches, and team personnel; requiring players, coaches, and team personnel to complete a COVID-19 screening; banning scrimmages and other types of practices with other teams; limiting fan attendance; and discouraging concession stands.

"It's definitely going to have to be a decision that every parent has to make, and this a very difficult decision as to whether or not you feel safe to allow their kids to go out and participate," said Childress.

Infectious disease specialist Doctor Steve Threlkeld, with Baptist Memorial Hospital, says a lot remains unknown about how COVID-19 could impact student-athletes.

"It gives people pause to have football and sports when you can't go to school, but I just don't think we know the risk," said Threlkeld.

Threlkeld pointed to cases that have broken out within professional sports teams. He says there will be cases among student-athletes too.

"So you're going to see cases. It's just a matter of how you control it," said Threlkeld. "What do you do when a couple of players have it? Does the whole team quarantine? Do you quarantine people who were in a meeting with that player? So there are some things out there that people need to think through carefully."

Childress said it's ultimately up to each school district to decide whether to allow contact sports.

SCS has not yet announced its plans.

The first school athletic events in Tennessee are scheduled for Aug. 19.

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