October 19, 2021

UW doctor says outdoor sports safe for participants, still need precautions

Youth baseball fans gather to watch a game in 2020 in New Jersey. (Photo by…

Youth baseball fans gather to watch a game in 2020 in New Jersey. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

COVID-19 is spreading at outdoor events, but as fall sports are set to return, the virus has thankfully not spread much among people who participate in outdoor sports.

When it has spread among outdoor sports participants, it’s often pre- and post-game activities to blame.

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“Outdoor sports have really proven to be safe,” said UW Medicine’s Dr. Jonathan Drezner. “They can be on the field, they can compete, and this isn’t necessarily increasing transmission of the virus.”

But Drezner that says the preparation for the game — carpools, locker room meetings — as well as after parties or celebrations have spread COVID-19.

“Carpools, bus transportation, what you do in the locker room, et cetera — there I think you have to be a little more careful,” he noted.

He says athletes should all wear masks indoors and spectators should almost always wear masks.

“If you’re crowded in the stands, watching a game, I think everyone should be in a mask. That’s just the safer thing to do,” he said.

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As for coaches, Drezner says they have a responsibility to the student-athletes or youth athletes to be compliant with prevention strategies.

“We’re still in the heart of a pandemic — the delta virus is really prevalent right now and the coaches have a responsibility,” he said. “So, yes, I understand you have to prepare your team. I understand you want to win, you want to make sure your athletes have fun and enjoy it. But you need to be a role model for them, and you need to make sure that they’re complying with all these prevention strategies.”

Dr. Drezner works at the UW Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology and he recognizes the overall benefits of youth sports being able to return for full fall season. He points out that sports have a positive impact on the general well-being and mental health of our kids.

“We have opportunities this year that we didn’t have last year in terms of fall sports, and I think those are here to stay,” he said. “We need to continue to find a way to keep sports going, regardless of what the pandemic is doing.”

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.