IHSA Board of Directors approves Return to Play Guidelines for sports

The Illinois High School Association, IHSA, Board of Directors has approved Return to Play Guidelines developed within the current structure of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan that provide the first step in IHSA student-athletes returning to participation. 

The Return to Play Guidelines were developed by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, SMAC, and have been approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health, IDPH.

“I commend the IHSA SMAC for crafting a plan that fits within the framework provided by state leadership, and refuses to compromise safety,” said Craig Anderson in a statement which was posted on the IHSA website. Anderson is IHSA’s executive director.

“The IHSA Return to Play Guidelines offer some important first steps in allowing student-athletes to reacclimate both physically and mentally to athletics, but more importantly, they allow each school to assess their own individual situation and determine if and when they want to proceed.”

An IHSA member high school may not conduct workouts under the Return to Play Guidelines unless they have local school district approval, and are located in a Health Region that is currently in Phase 3 (or better) under the governor’s Restore Illinois plan. 

Any school within a Phase 3 Region of the state could begin to implement the Return to Play Guidelines on June 6.

“These guidelines fulfill the IHSA’s twin commitments to interscholastic sports and the health of the interscholastic athletes that play them,” said IHSA SMAC member Dr. Preston Wolin, the surgeon/director of sports medicine at the Chicago Center for Orthopedics. 

“The SMAC has taken into account both the most recent news about the virus, and the opinions of experts across the country. Both the SMAC and the Board will continue to monitor events and medical opinions as time moves forward.”

The Return to Play Guidelines are aimed at student-athlete acclimatization and general physical fitness, and will not include any skill of sport training elements. 

The guidelines detail the allowable activities for student-athletes and coaches, as well as the safety precautions and social distancing that must be adhered to in order to maximize safety. 

“Our kids have been without sports and school for over two months, which has taken a toll on their physical and emotional health, said IHSA SMAC member Dr. Cynthia R. LaBella, the medical director at the Institute for Sports Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. 

“We purposely designed this first phase to focus solely on strength and conditioning so that kids can gradually rebuild their fitness levels in small peer groups with coach guidance. This will get kids moving again with their peers in the safest way possible, which will have a huge positive impact on their physical and emotional well-being.”

The IHSA’s Return to Play Guidelines will remain in place until the IHSA or Illinois Department of Public Health announce further guidelines.

“We will continue to seek input from our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, while following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, on what potentially happens next in late June,” said Anderson.

The full Return Play Guidelines can be found on the IHSA website, www.ihsa.org.


IHSA Stage 1 of Return to Play

 As a result of the Governor’s Restore Illinois Plan, beginning June 6, 2020 IHSA member schools are permitted to open for voluntary strength and conditioning sessions. School districts should work with their local health departments on current restrictions in their area prior to beginning contact. Local school administration determines the permitted activities at their school. Prioritizing the health and safety of all students and staff must remain the focus of each IHSA member school.

Outdoor workouts are highly encouraged over indoor workouts, to reduce transmission.

Students are limited to 3 hours of participation per day.

These requirements must be followed when conducting voluntary strength and conditioning sessions:

Maintain social distance by being 6 feet apart.

Masks shall be worn when social distance cannot be maintained.

Follow gathering guidelines of groups of 10 or less including the coach and medical personnel.

Groups of 10 or less must be pre-determined.

Once groups are determined, students may not switch from one group to another based upon sport. Students that participate in multiple sports for the year are encouraged to be grouped, for summer participation, in their fall sport.

Interaction between groups shall be avoided.

Sessions can only include weightlifting, running, and exercises designed to promote physical fitness.

Sport-specific drills are not permitted, and sport-specific equipment may not be used.

Implement diligent and effective cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched objects and surfaces following the guidance of the CDC and IDPH.

Coaches must maintain a daily record of what athletes are participating, when, symptoms they may present. Athletes should be monitored at start of practice for temperature >100.4F/37C or symptoms of COVID-19 (fevers, chills, cough, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of taste or smell).

If symptoms are present they should not participate in practice and should be referred to a physician for evaluation and testing.

Free weight exercises that require a spotter cannot be conducted while honoring social distancing norms. Safety measures in all forms must be strictly enforced in the weight room.

Players shall bring their own water bottle, shoes, towels, and other personal equipment. The use of locker rooms, shared water coolers with cups, and water fountains will be prohibited during this stage.

It is the responsibility of each IHSA member school to comply with the above requirements. Additionally, IHSA member school sponsored camps, clinics, and open gyms are prohibited in any sport at this time.

If available, it is encouraged that an Athletic Trainer or medical personnel be available for workouts. They should be masked for any interactions with athletes and maintain 6-foot distance when feasible.

Any person with positive symptoms reported should not be allowed to take part in workouts and should contact his or her primary care provider or other appropriate healthcare professional.

(From the Illinois High School Association website.)

The Gazette-Democrat

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