COVID-19 AND RETURN TO SPORT
As the world continues to battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a great deal of uncertainty among everyone and our sports fraternity and Para athletes are no different.
Most Para sport events have been suspended and athletes, along with organisers, are unsure as to when normality will be restored, and sporting action will begin. Having said that, living with the virus is the new norm and with restrictions slowly starting to lift in some countries, one can expect a return to Para sport.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) considers the health and well-being of all involved in sport (including athletes, staff and volunteers, and spectators) to be of paramount importance. In an effort to gather and share best practices and resources, the IPC has created this resource of relevant COVID-19 information and return to sport guidelines. We hope this information will guide Para athletes, support staff, NPCs and IFs on how one can minimise the risk of the pandemic and return to sport.
We also encourage all stakeholders to consult and follow national, regional and local regulations and/or guidelines around COVID-19 and return to sport. Local government and public health authorities’ laws and regulations should be followed and should take precedence over any guidelines developed by International Federations.
COVID-19 GENERAL INFORMATION
COVID-19 is an infectious respiratory disease caused by the most recently discovered novel coronavirus. COVID-19 spreads when an infected person coughs or exhales small droplets from their nose or mouth into the air.
The virus can be transmitted from person to person if other people breathe in these droplets.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Other symptoms that are less common and may affect some patients include aches and pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhoea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but only have very mild symptoms.
Those with pre-existing health conditions or the elderly are most at risk of severe infection.
How can I protect myself and others?
- Maintaining physical distance (a minimum of 1 metre) from other individuals.
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Practicing respiratory hygiene by coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow or tissue and then immediately disposing of the tissue.
- Wearing a mask if you have respiratory symptoms and performing hand hygiene after disposing of the mask.
- Routine cleaning and disinfection of environmental and other frequently touched surfaces.
- If you are sick, stay home and if you have cold or flu-like symptoms get tested.
- Make sure you continue to go to any scheduled appointments with your doctor.
This useful COVID-19 fact sheet provides more detail on the above:
World Health Organisation updates
The World Health Organisation has a range of advice and alerts to keep people updated on the latest developments regards COVID-19:
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public
- Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)
- Rational use of personal protective equipment for COVID-19
- WHO WhatsApp messaging service: Receive the latest news and information on COVID-19. To subscribe: text 'hi' to +41 79 893 1892
Mental Health Considerations
Although the physical health risks of COVID-19 are clear, many individuals may experience significant mental health challenges due to the impact of social isolation and lack of ability to directly engage with their family and friends. For athletes, this may be compounded due to unexpected changes in the competition schedule, financial stress, and difficulty in reaching training goals due to closed facilities and lack of direct, one-on-one personal coaching and support. These mental health challenges may often be “invisible” to others, and athletes may have difficultly talking about it due to concern for stigma or adverse impact on their standing in the sport.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health challenges, you should seek help from a professional, and remember that talking about it actually is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Several athlete-friendly modules related to well-being, mental health, and COVID can be found here:
WHO info around COVID-19 and mental health
The World Health Organisation has a wide range of guidance regards mental health and COVID-19:
COVID-19 and Para athletes
Consulting with IPC Medical Committee and International Federation medical experts, as well as through information provided by the WHO, the IPC has guidance for athletes on the potential impact of COVID-19. Additionally, for a clinical and medical audience, the IPC Medical Committee has developed a document that assesses COVID-19 risk based on specific disabilities.
For clinical and medical audience:
COVID-19 and disability
Here are a range of useful resources that assess COVID-19 and its impact on people with disabilities:
Cleaning of assistive devices
- Beneficial Designs – Peter Axelson
- Spinal Cord Injury Canada
- Enable Ireland - Cleaning of your equipment in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic
RETURN TO SPORT GUIDELINES FROM INTERNATIONAL FEDERATIONS
Many International Federations have started developing guidelines to support National Federations and event organisers to plan for restarting sport.
The IPC will share updates and resources, as they become available. If your IF or NPC has any guidelines, good practices or lessons learnt to share, please feel free to send us the link to your document for this page to firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to sport national guidelines
Tools for planning of sport events (mass gatherings)
The WHO has created an extensive range of documents of mass gathering and sport – these contain many practical processes for organisers to consider before putting on an event.
Derived from the WHO’s general advice for mass gatherings, the tool is intended to help organisers assess the risk of staging an event, establish the preparedness of the community and the event organisation for the risks of COVID-19, and clarify any necessary steps to further mitigate and reduce the risk. The tool is applicable to all mass participation endurance events, regardless of the sport, competition level and size such as distance running races, triathlon, rowing, cross country skiing and cycling (road).
IPC Classification: For Hygiene and Infection Control Guidelines
To support the safe return to classification, the IPC has developed IPC Classification Hygiene and Infection Control Guidelines. The aim of this document is to support classification organisers and their stakeholders (e.g. IFs, NPCs, local organising committees, classifiers etc.) when organising classification activities.
These guidelines are specific to the current COVID-19 pandemic. They are not intended to replace local laws, regulations or guidance. All local health and safety legislation and regulations should be complied with; and local government and public health authorities’ laws and regulations should be followed and should take precedence over these guidelines.
More on the new guidelines for anti-doping testing can be found here.