Kids and Sports and COVID-19

The American Academy of Pediatrics published guidelines for keeping kids safe if they engage in sports, these days. It is mostly common sense that shouldn’t even need to be verbalized. Of course, wrestling is risky. The combatants exchange bodily fluids and exhale in one another’s faces. And sports with shared equipment, from dodgeball to basketball, are risky too.

Any indoor sport is risky, especially if it involves copious heavy breathing on the part of the athletes and/or a lot of cheering and yelling from the audience. If the ventilation is inadequate, the danger goes exponential. And the bringing together of teams from different geographical areas to mingle and exchange cooties, and then return to their homes, is a virus’s dream scenario.

Sports like bike riding and golf, where distance is maintained, are obviously much safer. Likewise, sports where equipment is not shared. When the threat is an airborne illness, the outdoors is manifestly the preferred venue.

Needful propaganda

What if children are impatient with or scornful of the rules? What do we tell them? People should stay six feet apart because experts with fancy equipment and specialized computer programs have figured out that it is safer than being closer.

And what about masks? They protect the child, yes, but mainly a mask protects other people. Of course, your child is too kind and considerate to ever want to make someone else sick. That goes without saying. But they need to understand that a person can carry around the virus, and give it to other people, without ever feeling sick — without ever even knowing that tiny hitchhikers were flying out of their nose and mouth, trying to reach other people and bring them down.

Sample sales pitch: “If you are sick and don’t know it, you could accidentally hurt somebody a lot. But if you wear a mask, you could save somebody’s life and be a hero.”

If the child’s sport requires gear around the face and/or head, incorporating a mask might be an extra challenge. They might need help to make everything work together.

Sample question: “Out here on the bike trail, I’m not going to talk to any strangers. Why do I have to wear a mask along with my helmet?”

Sample answer: “Because if, heaven forbid, something goes wrong and you’re on the ground injured, and a passerby or a medic comes to help, they’re breathing all over you, and if they have the virus, you could catch it. So, mask up please.”

Cases vary, and hopefully, everybody will do the best they can under the circumstances. For basic guidance, here is the official word from the World Health Organization:

While the WHO does not recommend wearing face masks during vigorous exercise, it should be worn when non-vigorous exercise is being performed and physical distancing is not possible.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How can you help keep your kids safe while they play sports?,”, undated
Image by Phil Roeder/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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