Coronavirus Chronicles — Sports, Schools, and COVID-19

Things are happening with young people, connected in one sense with the virus, and in another way, with the whole field of physical activity, including organized group exercise and, at the most active and impactful extreme, with team sports. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all recent news stories, but a random bouquet of items that happened to be noticed.

As long ago as last April, news was published of a Japanese study which found that the spread of COVID-19 was “18 times greater indoors than outdoors.” No one claimed this to be an exact ratio in all places and at all times, because obviously, a change in environment means a change in variables. But subsequent experience and further study have confirmed that it is much safer to be outdoors than inside walls.

School daze

In the problematic area of physical education and team competition, one difficulty is that “school sports” comprise several different programs. There are the fall sports, like football, cross-country, soccer, and tennis, that are played outside. “Season B” consists, but for the obvious exceptions of hockey and skiing, of indoor sports like basketball, swimming, and wrestling.

As we have seen, the Centers for Disease Control issued updated guidance for the benefit of youth sports administrators. Of course, any district with in-person school going on was already doing a lot. Colorado announced its rules in early January, including…

Athletes, coaches and officials in all sports will be required to complete daily symptom checks and be symptom-free before participating in any practices or competitions. No spectators will be allowed, basketball and hockey players will be required to wear masks or other facial coverings during competition, everyone will play fewer games and the opportunities for postseason competition will be reduced.

Other limits were imposed, too. For informal practice sessions, only a certain number of athletes would be allowed in a gym at once. If a team went on the road, there could only be 25 people on the bus. Journalist Kelly Lyell comprehensively reported on all the measures that were already being taken, according to previous CDC advice, to protect the participants in basketball, hockey, skiing, spirit, swimming and diving, wrestling, and more.

In Maryland, also in early January, the Baltimore County Public School system announced the cancellation of the winter sports season. Less than a month later, another state was in tumult because student athletes who looked forward to the start of the winter sports season on February 1 were disappointed by a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order prohibiting competitions in contact sports at least until the 21 of the month.

The parents of five students filed a lawsuit against the Department. They say that a University of Wisconsin study released in October (years ago, in COVID time) found not much transmission of the disease through high school sports, and besides, college and professional athletes are not subject to the prohibition, so they thought it wasn’t fair.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Closed environments facilitate secondary transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),”, April 2020
Source: “Colorado high school sports will look different this winter to fight COVID-19 spread,”, 01/10/21
Source: “Baltimore County cancels winter high school sports season amid surge in COVID-19 cases,”, 01/11/21
Source: “‘Let them play!’ High school athletes sue Michigan over contact sports ban,”, 02/02/21
Image by Phil Roeder/CC BY 2.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

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.

Food & Health Resources