A new school year always brings anticipation and sometimes, a bit of apprehension. That is especially true this school year as we find ourselves coping with the coronavirus. School re-openings gained more attention than ever this year, but Beau Sasser, M.D., has been preparing all along to get athletes back in the game. Dr. Sasser is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery, and medical director of Sports Medicine at Southeast Georgia Health System.
“I work with our local athletic directors and high schools and we follow CDC guidelines by encouraging hand washing, masks and distancing where possible,” says Sasser. “We advise staying home if an athlete or a family member feels ill. Every sport has inherent risks. Unfortunately, COVID-19 adds an extra risk.”
Taking proactive steps
It may reassure parents and athletes to know what proactive, protective steps Sasser and local athletic directors are taking. Working with the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), they developed guidelines in addition to those suggested by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The steps include properly cleaning sports equipment between uses and limiting locker room time.
“Athletes are encouraged to show up and leave in uniform, as they would do as part of a recreational sports team,” explains Sasser. Water relief stations are cleaned regularly and placed apart from each other to allow for social distancing. Athletes are also discouraged from sharing water bottles.
With help from local health departments, Sasser and the athletic directors developed a contact tracing system. “We created an Excel spreadsheet that checks every player for their temperature and possible symptoms, when they arrive and when they leave.”
Concerned parents may want to minimize their child’s risk by directing them toward activities that require less person-to-person contact. Sasser suggests softball, baseball, soccer, golf, tennis, cross country running or the sailing team.
Playing sports is still essential
Precautions aside, he believes that COVID-19 requires innovative thinking until a vaccine is introduced. “We need to find ways that allow us to function as people. The NFL is working on a filtration mask that allows people to work out while masked.”
Sports are essential to the health and well-being of young people. Even before the pandemic, Sasser’s goal as a sports medicine specialist was keeping athletes safe. In this current environment, he continues to minimize risk not only for athletes, but for their families as well.
While acknowledging COVID concerns, Sasser, a father of four boys, recognizes the importance of sports. “They need to run and play to get their energy out.”
Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery has offices in Brunswick, St. Simons Island and St. Marys. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 912-466-7340 or visit sghs.org/summit.