BC Return to Sport: Safety and Injury Prevention

Coach/Teacher, Official/Administrator, Participant/Parent

June 17, 2021

As we progress through BC’s , modified sports and activities are now permitted.  As per the request of the Premier and the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, viaSport worked with the sport sector to create guidelines for the resumption of sport, which have been reviewed by government officials and WorkSafeBC.

We’ve put together a list of what you need to know to encourage a safe return to play and tips on how to prevent injuries among your teammates and athletes. For more details, visit viaSport’s website.

For sport-specific return to play guidelines, please visit the individual sport pages using the “Sport” menu at the top of this page. Please note that not all sports have developed guidelines yet. Links to sport-specific guidelines will be added to the sport pages as they become available and are subject to change without notice.

Key Messages for Returning to Sport

  • Spin classes, hot yoga, aerobics, bootcamp, high intensity components of circuit training, and high intensity interval training across BC may resume in facilities that have developed a COVID-19 safety plan.1
  • Low intensity group physical activities including yoga, use of light intensity exercise and cardio equipment, Pilates, light weightlifting, stretching, low intensity Barre classes, and tai-chi are permitted in facilities that have developed a COVID-19 safety plan.1
  • Outdoor and indoor team sports are allowed for all ages, including games, tournaments, and practices.1
  • Traveling between regions to participate in athletic activities is permitted.1
  • Spectators are not permitted at indoor sports events; there is a maximum of 50 spectators permitted at outdoor sports events.1
  • Remember to continue to follow the measures put in place by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer.
  • As sports resume, there must be physical distancing indoors, and enhanced equipment cleaning.2
  • Since sports were cancelled for months, it is important to take care when resuming activities. Proper warm-ups, stretching, and cool-downs are helpful in preventing injuries. Rushing into pre-COVID-19 activity levels all at once is not recommended, as overexertion can lead to injury.
  • Resuming play at pre-COVID-19 levels too quickly can put you at risk for injury. However, due to modifications in the activities allowed during the Provincial Restart Plan, risk of injury is lower than at regular levels of play. This is further reduced by limited contact sports taking place.
  • If an injury occurs while playing sports, precautionary safety measures should be implemented. This includes the person performing the treatment wearing a mask and gloves.2 If greater treatment is required, emergency departments have implemented safety measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

Q: How do the current public health orders affect my participation in physical activity?

A: Throughout BC, high intensity group physical activities may now resume, including:1

  • Spin classes
  • Hot yoga
  • Aerobics
  • Bootcamp
  • High intensity components of circuit training
  • High intensity interval training

As well, outdoor and indoor team sports are permitted for those of all ages.

 

Q: Are gyms and other types of indoor physical activity facilities open?

A: Low intensity group physical activity including yoga, use of light intensity exercise and cardio equipment, Pilates, light weightlifting, stretching, low intensity Barre classes, and tai-chi are permitted.1 Gyms and other facilities that offer individual physical activity may remain open, if they implement and adhere to a COVID-19 safety plan.1

 

Q: Am I allowed to watch my child participate in sports?

A: Under the current Public Health Orders, up to 50 spectators are permitted at outdoor sport events. Spectators are not allowed at indoor sport events.

 

Q: What measures are in place as sports resume?

A: As sports resume, orders and recommendations from the Provincial Health Officer should continue to be followed. These include:

  • Limiting activities to 50 participants or less (no spectators allowed at indoor sport events)
  • Frequent and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces
  • Minimizing the sharing of equipment
  • Frequently washing hands

 

Q: Who is creating guidelines for return to sport?

A: As per the request of the Premier and the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, viaSport worked with the sport sector to create guidelines for the resumption of sport, which have been reviewed by government officials and WorkSafeBC. Provincial Sports organizations (e.g., BC Hockey, BC Soccer, etc.) will then use these guidelines to develop sport-specific plans for clubs to implement. Public health orders implemented by the Provincial Health Officer also provide guidance for safe sport participation.

 

Q: What sports and activities am I allowed to participate in during each phase of the Provincial Restart Plan?

A: Based on the 4 step Provincial Restart Plan, viaSport has summarized each step as it relates to return to sport3.

  1. Outdoor sport practices and games are permitted for all age groups within their home club, although a 2 m distance must be kept off the field of play. For outdoor sports involving those 22 years and older (including varsity sports), the maximum group size is 50 individuals; there is no maximum group size for those 21 years and younger. For indoor sports, a 3 m distance between participants is required, and is limited to 2 participants for those over 22 years of age. No spectators for outdoor or indoor sports.
  2. CURRENT STAGE: Similar to stage 1, with up to 50 spectators and increased travel permitted for outdoor sports. For indoor sports, increased travel, contact on the field of play, and competition are permitted, with no spectators.
  3. Similar to step 2, with an increased number of participants and spectators allowed for outdoor sports. For indoor sports, group sizes will increase and a limited number of spectators will be permitted.
  4. Normal sports activities for all ages, both outdoors and indoors.

 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask while returning to sport? If so, when?

A: When not playing, it is recommended that masks be worn in common areas such as dressing rooms and hallways.2 Benches are considered part of the field of play, meaning it is not necessary for players on the same team to wear masks on the bench. However, athletes can consider wearing masks on the bench if feasible. When coaches or other support staff cannot maintain a 2 m distance from others, such as near the bench, masks must be worn.2

 

Q: Is returning to sport risky for my health?

A: Sport organizations within the province have developed sport-specific return to play plans that follow all guidelines set out by the Provincial Health Officer, in order to ensure the health and safety of British Columbians. However, it is the responsibility of each individual to understand their personal risk when choosing to participate. Safe physical activity is encouraged, as it is important for maintaining good overall health. Physical activity can help improve mental health, weight management, bone and muscle strength, as well as reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.4

 

Q: I have taken time off from sports. What is my risk of injury?

A: Due to modifications in the activities allowed during the Provincial Restart Plan, risk of injury is lower than at regular levels of play. This is further reduced by the lack of contact sports taking place. However, with strict restrictions in place for months, many individuals may have taken part in less physical activity. There is strong evidence that athletes can experience a “de-training” effect that reverses the gains from training if they do not maintain training levels.5 Resuming play at pre-COVID-19 levels too quickly can put you at risk for injury.

Upon resumption of play, proper warm-ups and cool-downs can help prevent injury.6 An eased-in approach may be beneficial after a hiatus from sport, and can help avoid overexertion, which can lead to injury. It is important for coaches, trainers, and parents to ensure a safe and gradual return to sport for athletes.

To prevent injury, it is important for sport participants to continue to follow their sport organization’s guidelines and policies, including the use of protective equipment and injury prevention recommendations.

 

Q: When will contact sports resume?

A: Contact sports are currently permitted.

 

Q: How can I stay active without increasing my interactions with others?

A: Individual or family activities are great ways to stay physically active, while reducing interactions with others. Examples of such activities include:

  • Running
  • Bicycling
  • At-home basketball
  • Playing pass (e.g., frisbee, baseball, soccer, etc.)
  • Jumping rope
  • Fitness exercises (e.g., push-ups, squats, etc.)

 

Q: I live in a rural/remote community and the only way I can participate in organized physical activity is to travel to another community. Am I permitted to do this?

A: Travel for sports is permitted.1

 

Q: How will I receive treatment if injured while playing sports?

A: If an individual is injured while playing a sport, those administering first aid are required to wear a mask and gloves.2  In the event of a serious injury, the injured athlete should be transported by car or ambulance to the emergency department, where infection control measures are in place.

 

References

  1. Government of British Columbia. Province-wide restrictions. Available at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/info/restrictions. (Accessed: 15 June 2021)
  2. viaSport British Columbia. Return to sport guidelines for BC. (2020).
  3. viaSport British Columbia. Return to sport restart 2.0. Available at: https://www.viasport.ca/sites/default/files/Return_to_Sport_Restart_2.0_Chart_6-1-2021.pdf. (Accessed: 4 June 2021)
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of Physical Activity. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm. (Accessed: 22nd June 2020)
  5. Sousa AC, Neiva HP, et al. Concurrent Training and Detraining: brief Review on the Effect of Exercise Intensities. Int J Sports Med2019; 40(12): 747-755. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/html/10.1055/a-0975-9471(Accessed: 23 June 2020)
  6. American Heart Association. Warm up, cool down. (2014).