The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) announced today that it is revising its previous guidance that classified sports by ‘potential infection risk” for COVID-19. After further examination of the issue by its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), the NFHS has eliminated its tiered “Potential Infection Risk by Sport” that classified sports as HIGH, MODERATE, or LOW risk for COVID transmission. 

The NFHS announcement noted that, “as our knowledge of how the virus that causes COVID-19 has evolved, we have increasingly recognized that transmission depends upon multiple factors that cannot be easily accounted for by simply dividing sports into three distinct categories of risk.”

Click Here to Access the Full NFHS Statement

The NFHS announcement is consistent with the views of US Lacrosse, which maintains the position that the sport of boys’ and girls’ lacrosse does not carry a high risk of coronavirus transmission or infection.

US Lacrosse’s Sports Science & Safety Committee has advised that the prevailing community infection rates appear to be the strongest predictor for athletes being infected, and proven cases of on-the-field coronavirus transmission remain relatively rare, particularly for sports played outdoors. 

The adjustment of the NFHS guidance could also open opportunities for youth lacrosse to resume in some parts of the country where state health departments had applied the initial NFHS designations to youth and amateur sports.  Boys’ lacrosse was initially grouped in the high-risk category and girls’ lacrosse was placed in the moderate risk category. 

“We applaud this position shift by the NFHS, and are hopeful that it will be embraced by various state health departments in their decision-making process as related to return to play guidelines,” said Ann Kitt Carpenetti, Vice President of Lacrosse Operations at US Lacrosse. “More than anything, we want boys and girls to have the opportunity to safely return to playing lacrosse in all communities. US Lacrosse will continue our outreach to the high school associations, leagues, and health departments of targeted states to request that they consider updating their positions and abandon their use of a sport risk classification list.”

The NFHS announcement advises decision makers to consider the following factors related to possible COVID-19 transmission as they consider their respective return plans for sports:

● COVID-19 rates of participants in any given sport are directly proportional to prevailing community disease rates.
● Participants in non-contact sports show lower rates of COVID-19 than contact sports.
● Participants in outdoor sports show lower rates of COVID-19 than indoor sports.
● Face mask use while participating in indoor sports results in COVID-19 rates comparable to the rates found in outdoor sports.
● The great majority of sports-related spread of COVID-19 does not appear to occur during sports participation, but from social contact. Maximizing efforts to prevent this type of spread remains paramount. Social distancing, mask use, staying home while ill, and proper hygiene must continue to be emphasized.

These findings and recommendations are consistent with the US Lacrosse’s Return to Play Guidance developed by its medical advisors on the Sports Science & Safety Committee. 

“Our committee applauds this latest update from NFHS, and in particular we want to thank our healthcare colleagues on the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for their thoughtful input and guidance,” said Dr. Eugene Hong, chair of the Sports Science & Safety Committee. “As sports medicine healthcare professionals, we are all trying to work together to safely guide our athletes and communities back to sports and exercise, and we are doing the best we can given the evidence and expert opinion that we have available at this time. We strongly encourage the lacrosse community to follow local, state, and federal public health guidelines, and to take all appropriate measures on and off the field to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission.”