Covid 19: Return to Sports Playbook


Physicians offer safe guidance for athletes, coaches, and others

OAKLAND, Calif. – Kaiser Permanente today announced a multidisciplinary team of sports medicine physicians, infectious disease, and other specialists has developed and released comprehensive guidance for youth, high school, and collegiate athletes to return to sports safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19: Return to Sports Playbook provides information about exercise and the immune system, symptoms of COVID-19 and how it spreads, and hygiene and infection prevention. It provides recommendations for healthy food choices, sleep, mental health considerations, and coping mechanisms. In addition, it offers a wide range of sports-specific guidance for a safe return to activities. It has been developed by physicians in The Permanente Medical Group, which serves Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California.

“COVID-19 has sidelined most athletes as it has impacted every aspect of life,” said Richard S. Isaacs, MD, FACS, CEO and executive director of The Permanente Medical Group. “We assembled our top sports medicine physicians to develop the COVID-19 Return to Sports Playbook. This will help young athletes as well as their parents, coaches, trainers, teams, and leagues better understand the evidence-based strategies for getting back in the game as safely as possible.”

Susan M. Joy, MD, co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Sports Medicine Center in Sacramento, who led development of the playbook, said that evolving information about how viruses affect the immune system should influence decisions by individual athletes and sports leagues.

“Much is still not well understood about the new COVID-19 virus and how it will behave in the coming months and years,” said Dr. Joy, a sports medicine specialist. “The playbook is intended to help athletes navigate what lies ahead, even if it is still changing and hard to predict. By employing the tips and tools offered here, we hope that athletes can still find meaningful connection, achievement, and satisfaction in the unpredictable world of sports.”

Jason Brayley, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s medical director of sports medicine in Northern California and chief of sports medicine for the greater Sacramento region, added that strategies for phasing in different sports will continue to be complicated and change over time.

“The playbook was designed to help athletes better understand the rationale for developing these evolving strategies,” said Dr. Brayley, co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Sports Medicine Center in Sacramento. “For example, what happens in sports where athletes and coaches can maintain appropriate distancing will be different than in close-contact sports, and equipment involved in certain sports varies. Proper cleaning of equipment and sporting goods like basketballs and volleyballs is often overlooked, but it can help protect against the spread of infection.”

The playbook provides exercises to help decrease the chance of common injuries upon a return to athletics, as well as sport-specific training tips for athletes having a difficult time staying engaged with their training. In addition, it provides valuable guidance on relevant topics ranging from weight-room spotting and addressing mental health issues to wearing masks, cleaning equipment, and finding creative substitutes for handshakes and high-fives.

“The playbook outlines simple recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that go a long way toward protecting athletes,” Dr. Brayley said, “and we discuss how sports can adopt new ways to minimize future risks while maintaining the fun and competition.”

Get the complete Return to Sports Playbook here.

About Kaiser Permanente

For 75 years, Kaiser Permanente has been committed to shaping the future of health and health care — and helping our members, patients, and communities experience more healthy years. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Since July 21, 1945, Kaiser Permanente’s mission has been to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.4 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.

About The Permanente Medical Group

The Permanente Medical Group is the largest medical group in the United States — and one of the most distinguished. Our 9,000 physicians and 35,000 nurses and staff are leading the transformation of health care and delivering superior clinical outcomes that have a positive and often life-changing impact on the health of our more than 4.5 million patients in Northern California. Our collaborative and coordinated approach to medical care enables physicians in more than 70 specialties to work together and apply sophisticated technology and high levels of medical expertise to benefit the lives of our patients. And through our innovative, personalized, and technologically advanced approach to health care, we continue to set the standard and raise the bar in making high-quality care more connected, more convenient and more accessible — all with the goal of delivering the best clinical outcomes for our patients.