GNOC Medical & Anti-Doping Commission, Interscholastic Sports Association host virtual meeting on ‘Return to Sport’

Saturday, January 17, 2021

Almost a year after the inaugural launch of the “Athlete Awareness Program”, the partnership between GNOC and ISA continues to provide support to GDOE’s administrators, coaches, officials, and student-athletes.

GNOC’s Medical and Anti-Doping Commission presented the “Return to Sport with COVID-19” virtual forum on Saturday, January 17, 2021, through the zoom platform. The event was hosted by the Interscholastic Sports Association in its continued effort to prepare its coaches officials and athletes for the upcoming season after ten months of hiatus created by the worldwide pandemic.

The virtual forum included seventy-five stakeholders.

Al Garrido, ISA acting programs director, welcomed the stakeholders and panel to the forum followed by GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez and Board Chairwoman Maria Gutierrez.

GNOC sports program coordinator Joey Miranda III moderated, a panel of health professionals, which included Medical Sports Doctors Luis Cruz, M.D. and Arania Adolphson, M.D., Physical Therapists Chris Fernandez and Dr. Ryan Claros, DPT, Nutritionists Lenora Makela, and Rosae Calvo.

The presentation included a conversation with the doctors which covered COVID-19 related guidelines for administrators, coaches, officials, and students on the protocol of returning to sport. The nutritionists provided insight into ensuring proper nutrition and eating healthy before, during, and after the competition. The physicians discussed in length the 50/30/20/10 return to sport guidelines which provided information on a safe return to sport and how to avoid injury.

Fernandez, in his closing remarks, stated that safety is a priority for returning to interscholastic athletics and acknowledged the concept and recommendations provided by the professional panel.

Excerpts from the Guam Daily Post Matt Weiss

“Everyone is going to be excited to return, but we just have to take those measures to make sure that we know what we’re getting into in this return to sport, we take care of our athletes and we take the steps necessary to bring them on so we can be successful, not just competitively, but successful in helping them have a good season back together, back in the competition.

With the government’s vaccination program underway, both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines on island and being distributed to front-line workers and manåmko’, there are signs that Guam may soon return to some sense of normalcy.

However, students younger than 16 cannot be vaccinated for COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for ages 16 and up, while the Moderna equivalent is authorized only for ages 18 and above.

“We do have a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine here, with other treatments that are available at this time,” said Dr. Luis Cruz, a medical doctor. “We all have to be patient and, hopefully, by the summer or by next school year we will return back to some normalcy.”

Since the vaccine is not available for younger student-athletes, Cruz stressed the need to exercise caution. Making the distinction between low- and high-risk sports, he shared that COVID-19 testing may become a part of ISA’s safety protocols.

He said that for the higher-risk sports “we may potentially need a test to make sure that the players do not have COVID and able to transmit the virus.”

Cruz also explained that children are not usually affected by COVID-19 as badly as adults, but stressed caution.

“The majority of children are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, but the risk of potentially having severe disease is not worth it,” he said, explaining the necessity of not returning to sports haphazardly. 

With the proposed Block 1 starting date a week away, Chris Fernandez, a physical therapist, and Ryan Claros, a doctor of physical therapy, stressed the importance for athletes and coaches to resume returning to sports slowly and start by focusing on building strength and conditioning. Both suggested that due to prolonged inactivity, the majority of student-athletes have been deconditioned and coaches, athletic directors, parents and athletes need to pay attention to reduce injury.

“Dr. Ryan and I are coaches and we look at it (returning to sport) from two perspectives: as a PT and as a coach,” Chris Fernandez said. “One of the questions I have as a coach is: ‘What have my athletes been doing during this time?’”

“Students have been in a sedentary lifestyle with online learning in front of their computers and not having the social structure and the daily structure of going to school and being in these normal routines,” Chris Fernandez said. “We’ve seen activity levels drop. And so, when we return to the field, on that first day of practice, we believe there is going to be a broad spectrum of fitness levels with our athletes.”

He added that that while a handful of athletes have remained physically active and have kept up with training, the vast majority have not.

“There are going to be quite a few people who are severely undertrained and deconditioned,” he said. … “Athletes may look the same, but they may have gained weight or gained fat vs. muscle.”

Chris Fernandez said, “we are going to see changes in physical abilities, for sure, and we are going to see changes in sport-specific skills – possible regression and delays.”

He recommended that coaches should take time to relearn their athletes’ capabilities, start slowly, progress slowly, pay attention to the heat and establish preventive training programs.

“We think about 10 months, it may not seem that long, but if you think of 10 months in the life of a high schooler, that’s a significant amount of time lost,” added Chris Fernandez.

Claros, who operates out of Custom Fitness in Hagåtña, explained that, when returning to sport, winning and competition should not be the priority.

“This return to sports should be for fun,” he said. “It should be for social interaction.”

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