BC Return to Sport: Safety and Injury Prevention

Coach/Teacher, Official/Administrator, Participant/Parent

March 31, 2021

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

  • Until further notice, spin classes, hot yoga, aerobics, bootcamp, high intensity components of circuit training, and high intensity interval training across BC must be suspended, as a result of being classified as high-risk group activities.1
  • 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 suspended until April 19, 2021.1
  • Indoor and outdoor adult team sports (for those 22 years and older) are suspended.1
  • However, drills and training activities are permitted for a maximum of two people indoors or ten people outdoors, as long as participants remain 3 metres from each other.
  • Indoor and outdoor youth team sports (for those 21 years and younger) must return to physically distanced and non-contact play, such as modified training activities.1
  • Until further notice, traveling between regions to participate in athletic activities is not permitted.1
  • Spectators are not permitted at any 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, no contact between players, and enhanced equipment cleaning.2
  • Under the Gatherings and Events Order of the Provincial Health Officer, event organizers must record contact information (first and last name, phone number or email address) for all participants, to prepare should contact tracing become necessary.2 For sports, this includes all events such as games, practices, or other training sessions.
  • 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 newest public health orders, effective from November 19, 2020 until further notice, affect my participation in physical activity?

A: Throughout BC, high intensity group physical activities are suspended, including:1

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

As well, for those 22 years and older, training for sports are limited to two participants indoors and ten participants outdoors, with all individuals remaining at least 3 metres from each other. Instead, independent activities are encouraged. Indoor and outdoor team sports for those under 22 years of age may continue in a physically distant and non-contact manner.

 

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 suspended until April 19, 2021.1 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 Order in effect from November 19, 2020 until further notice, spectators at sport activities are not permitted.

 

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:

  • Maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres from others when possible
  • Limiting activities to 50 participants or less (no spectators allowed)
  • Recording of contact information (first and last name, phone number or email address) of everyone who participates in sports events, to prepare for potential contact tracing
  • Frequent and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces
  • Minimizing the sharing of equipment
  • Frequently washing hands
  • No travel for the purpose of physical activity

 

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: 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 not permitted, as is non-essential travel between communities for competition. Contact sports should not be taking place, nor should competitions between sports clubs.2

As measures progressively loosen, indoor sports can cautiously resume, and group sizes may increase with limited spectators, not surpassing a total of 50 individuals. Contact sports may resume between pairs or among small groups, and regional competition in cohorts is permitted.2 Travel should be limited. Please see the first question for currently suspended activities.

 

Q: What is a cohort in terms of returning to play?

A: A sports cohort can consist of several teams (e.g. 4) that can play against each other once competition restrictions are lifted. While the cohort may contain more than 50 players, any game within the cohort model cannot exceed 50 individuals.2 Allowable cohort sizes depend on the level of contact involved in a sport. Size details are provided in the viaSport Return to Sport Guidelines for BC (Appendix H).2

 

Q: I am a multi-sport athlete; can I be in multiple cohorts?

A: It is recommended that athletes limit the number of cohorts in which they belong, to maintain a lower number of people they are interacting with. This is a personal choice, although sport organizations can limit the number of cohorts athletes may belong to within their organization.

 

Q: Do I need to physically distance within my cohort?

A: The cohort model limits interactions so that contact is possible after current restrictions banning contact sports are lifted.1

 

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.3

 

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.4 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.5 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 not permitted until existing public health orders are lifted, when safe to do so.

 

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 only permitted if you are an athlete whose home club is located in another community.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/safety/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/covid-19-provincial-support/restrictions. (Accessed: 30 March 2021)

2. viaSport British Columbia. Return to sport guidelines for BC. (2020).

3. 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)

4. 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)

5. American Heart Association. Warm up, cool down. (2014).