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Safe Play During the Pandemic

Susan Helms, formerly a pediatric critical care nurse and presently the director of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital to talk about Children and Sports during the coronavirus.
Safe Play During the Pandemic
Susan Helms, R.N., M.A.L.S.
Susan Helms is the Director of Safe Kids Mid-South and Injury Prevention at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. 

Learn more about Susan Helms, R.N., M.A.L.S.

Bill Klaproth: (Host) So are there ways children and coaches can return to play and safely protect themselves and others from catching COVID-19? Let's find out with Susan Helms, formerly a pediatric critical care nurse and presently the director of injury prevention and safe kids at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. As we talk about children in sports during the Coronavirus.  This is the Peds Pod from Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. I'm Bill Klaproth. Susan, thank you for your time. It is great to talk with you. So what are some of the guiding principles to consider for ways children and coaches can protect fellow teammates, families, and communities, and help slow the progression of COVID-19.

Susan Helms: (Guest) Clearly, the more people that a coach and child interact with, the closer the physical interaction, the more equipment sharing, the greater the risk of COVID-19 spread. But the exercise at sports provide have many benefits, physical fitness, and improve health, stress relief, self-satisfaction, healthy decision making, team-building skills, and more. So it's important to weigh in on the way to be sport safe. Coaches and children might want to follow this simple guide. Lowers risk of performing, skill-building drills at home, whether alone or with family. The increased risk might be having a team-based practice. More risk is having a team competition with members of the same team. Even more, risk is having full competition between teams in the same geographic area. And the highest risk would be having full competition between teams from different geographic locations.

Host: Yeah, that's a great way to assess risk levels. So are there other ways to assess the risk?

Susan: A few things to consider, one would be physical closeness of the players and the length of time the players are close to each other and the staff. Perhaps a modified practice to work on individual skills to be considered. And then there's the amount of necessary touching of shared equipment and gear. The key here is to minimize shared equipment, increased disinfecting of shared equipment, and certainly have players use their own water bottle. Another is the ability to social distance when not actively engaged in play. I really like to call this people distance, because I think that more clearly defines what action is needed. To be considered for people distance is in the sidelines and the dugouts on benches and in the stands. Of course, you need to consider the age of the players. Maybe the younger children could sit with their parents. And there's the size of the team. A decreased team size would be preferable if that were feasible. While traveling the less risk is you stay within your own community, as much as possible. The key here is that the number of COVID-19 cases in the community is proportional to the risk of contracting COVID-19 during group activities.

Host: What a great way to look at it and really good guidelines to assess the risks. So then what do the CDC guidelines represent?

Susan: It's always good to know and to follow the CDC guidelines recommended to help flatten the curve. Stay at home if you're sick. I know how much players want to play, but playing while sick is never the right thing to do. Practice hand hygiene, wear a mask, not necessarily the players, but the coaches, the staff, officials, parents, and spectators.

Host: Well, speaking of masks, let me ask you this then, what about wearing masks during sport activities?

Susan: Children can wear masks while participating in those activities, even though most will not really want to do that.

Host: Okay. Got it. Thank you for that, Susan. And then are there any final thoughts to share?

Susan: I like to challenge coaches and parents to be creative in designing new team cheers that are people distance. And to find special ways to celebrate good plays and games without giving the high five. There's so much energy out there for returning to sports, I know that coaches and parents will find a way to make it fun and safe for everyone.

Host: I love that, people distanced team cheers. It's so good. I love it. Well, Susan, this has really been informative. Thank you so much for your time today.

Susan: I have enjoyed being here today.

Host: That Susan Helms and to learn more, visit and be sure to subscribe to the Peds Pod in Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. You can also check out to view our full podcast library. And if you found this podcast helpful, please share it on your social channels. This is the Peds Pod by Le Bonheur Children's Hospital. Thanks for listening.