NFHS revises guidance on risks for COVID-19 transmission during high school sports

The NFHS winter sports season guide during pandemic.

The National Federation of State High School Assns. Sports Medicine Advisory Committee has revised its May 2020 guidance document with a new “statement of risk of COVID-19” during high school sports.

Eliminated was the tiered “potential infection risk by sport” that placed sports in high-, medium- and low-risk categories.

The medical advisory committee now recommends that state associations consider five factors in assessing potential for transmission in high school sports.


Among the factors is that prevailing community infection rates can be a strong predictor for high school athletes being infected and transmission during athletics remains relatively rare, according to the NFHS statement released Tuesday.

Among the other conclusions is that participants in non-contact sports show lower rates of infection that those in contact sports, participants in outdoor sports show lower rates than indoor sports and using face masks for indoor sports results in similar transmission rates compared to those seen in outdoor sports.

NFHS makes the case based on accumulating evidence that the majority of sports-related spread of the virus appears to occur from social contact, not during sports participation.

There has been growing pressure from coaches to abandon the tier recommendations, particularly in California, where the state’s tier system of when sports can resume is limiting options. A group of coaches is scheduled to meet this week with Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services.

“If the medical profession has learned anything in the past year, it is that we have to be open to regularly assessing all available evidence and make appropriate changes in policies and procedures in places of business, schools and athletics,” said Dr. Michael Koester, chair of the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, in a statement.