BC Return to Sport: Safety and Injury Prevention

Coach/Teacher, Official/Administrator, Participant/Parent

July 7, 2020

As we progress through BC’s Provincial Restart Plan, 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

  • Remember to continue to follow the measures put in place by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer.
  • Provincial sports organizations are developing detailed, sport-specific guidelines based on best-practice recommendations by viaSport. Each club must create their own plans, and these plans must be approved by the club board of directors.
  • As sports resume, there must be physical distancing, minimal equipment sharing, small groups, and no inter-community travel.1
  • 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 the lack of 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.1 If greater treatment is required, emergency departments have implemented safety measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Q: What measures will be put in place when sports resume?

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

  • Maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres from others
  • Limiting activities to 50 participants or less
  • 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.

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

A: During the period of the strictest restrictions, no group sport participation is permitted. Indoor and outdoor recreational facilities are closed. Individual activities at home or in open outdoor spaces are encouraged, such as bicycling or bodyweight exercises.

CURRENT STAGE: During the period of transition measures, outdoor activities in small groups are optimal, and symptom screening should be completed prior to commencement. Spectators are discouraged, as is non-essential travel between communities for competition. Contact sports should not be taking place, nor should competitions between sports clubs.1

As measures progressively loosen, indoor sports will cautiously resume, and group sizes may increase (but not yet pre-COVID-19 sizes) with limited spectators. Contact sports may resume between pairs or among small groups, and competition between clubs in different regions will be considered.1

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.2

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.3 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.4 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: Limited contact sports will resume as restrictive measures progressively loosen. There is no exact date for this yet.

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: Currently in Phase 3 of the Provincial restart Plan, the Province of BC allows non-essential inter-community travel within BC. Activities requiring travel are currently permissable.1 When deciding to travel outside of their rural or remote community, individuals may wish to consider their comfortable risk levels, as well as the health and safety of those in their bubble.  

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.1  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. viaSport British Columbia. Return to sport guidelines for BC. (2020).
2. 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)
3. Sousa AC, Neiva HP, et al. Concurrent Training and Detraining: brief Review on the Effect of Exercise Intensities. Int J Sports Med 2019; 40(12): 747-755. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/html/10.1055/a-0975-9471 (Accessed: 23 June 2020)
4. American Heart Association. Warm up, cool down. (2014).