What the CDC Says About Playing Sports During the Pandemic

The NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing in their respective bubbles, and the NFL is about to start amid COVID-19. There are questions about health and safety concerns considering there are so many athletes in proximity to each other. Here's what the Center for Disease Control has to say about playing sports in a pandemic.

According to the CDC's website, there are several different guidelines that professional and amateur athletes alike can follow in order to remain healthy. The most important among the list is staying at home if sick. It's critical to avoid spreading the coronavirus or any other illness prior to or during games. Similarly, the CDC says that athletes need to wash their hands prior to and after practices and games, especially if handling someone else's equipment. Although the organization does urge athletes to avoid sharing pads, gloves and other assorted gear.

With youth and professional sports returning or already taking place, there is an inherent risk of spreading the coronavirus. Contact is unavoidable in both football and basketball, but the CDC does have some guidelines for limiting the risk. For example, the organization does recommend taking part in strength and conditioning drills at home and away from other members of the team. If multiple people need to be present for the drills, the CDC recommends practicing with members of the same household.

"If organizations are not able to keep safety measures in place during the competition (for example, keeping participants six feet apart at all times), they may consider limiting participation to within-team competition only (for example, scrimmages between members of the same team) or team-based practices only," the CDC says. "Similarly, if organizations are unable to put in place safety measures during team-based activities, they may choose individual or at-home activities, especially if any members of the team are at an increased risk for severe illness."


The NFL, which begins the season with Sept. 10's game between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs, is following some of these guidelines while preparing for the upcoming schedule. Training camps are taking place at team facilities instead of off-site locations, and there are no joint practices between different franchises. Additionally, the league canceled the preseason. This means that the first time NFL football takes place will be in Week 1.

While the change in offseason activities has disrupted the NFL schedule, it has also helped teams prevent the spread of the coronavirus. A very limited number of players and coaches have tested positive. The majority are healthy and ready to suit up once the season begins.