Last Thursday, US Lacrosse hosted its third webinar in a series of offerings aimed at helping the lacrosse community navigate the steps of returning to the field amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar came one day after US Lacrosse released Stage 5 of its Return to Play recommendations and was specifically focused on “Risk Considerations When Returning to Lacrosse Games and Practices.”

Serving as panelists for the session were Dr. David Berkhoff from the University of North Carolina Medical School; Lori Windolf Crispo, area president for RPS Bollinger, the administrator for US Lacrosse’s member insurance program; Kellie Loehr, an athletic trainer certified from MedStar Health Sports Medicine; and Steve Stenersen, CEO of US Lacrosse.

Here’s a link to the full recording:

Risk Considerations When Returning to Lacrosse Games and Events from US Lacrosse on Vimeo.

Here are some of the panelists key takeaways:

“We understand the values that athletic participation and particularly team participation play in a child’s development in all ways,” Stenersen said of the Return to Play recommendations. “However, the concerns over the risks of COVID-19 and the global pandemic are also in the balance as well. We’re trying to do our best to provide families with the guidance they need to make the right decision.”

Berkhoff said some of the key considerations are whether your child/athlete is physically ready with enough training, are they emotionally ready, who’s going to go, what are the travel risks, what’s going to happen at the venue and what happens when you get home.

“Everything we do and talk about is to mitigate risk,” Berkhoff said. “It’s not to eliminate risk. It’s not to make low-risk environments. As communities are changing their phases from phase one to phase two to phase three…people misunderstand that when the government changes from phase one to two, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been any change in COVID, and there hasn’t. COVID’s still out there. It’s the same as it was when we were all a little more locked down a few months ago. I think everybody’s got to take that into consideration when they start to think about are they going to have their child and their family play.”

One of the overlooked issues with returning to play in the COVID-era is the increased risk of physical injuries.

“As we began to reenter into sporting activities, it’s going to be really important to listen to your body as your activity levels increase,” Loehr said. “We know that injury rates are going to increase when returning to play after long periods of deconditioning. Hopefully, by the time athletes are reaching phase three, four and that fifth stage that we just released, they should have already been gradually increasing the duration and intensity of activities because that’s going to help reduce the risk of injury.”

Among the risk management and best practices that Crispo highlighted for event operators were evaluating test positivity rates in a region before moving forward with an event, warning invitees (participants and spectators) of potential COVID danger through signage and having all participants sign a communicable disease waiver and release as a way of putting people on notice of what your expectations are.

“I think right now we all need to rely on ourselves,” Crispo said. “We’re protecting our families, we’re protecting our businesses, we’re protecting our ability to continue playing the sport and that’s really what we want. We want sports to go forward for the future – next month, the rest of the year, etc.”

 A copy of the PowerPoint from the webinar is available here.