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J. Thomas McNamara

     The “Return to Play Guidelines” were developed by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and have been approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

        They are allowed to begin Saturday, June 6.
      “I commend the IHSA SMAC for crafting a plan that fits within the framework provided by state leadership, and refuses to compromise safety,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “The ‘IHSA Return to Play Guidelines’ offer some important first steps in allowing student-athletes to reacclimate both physically and mentally to athletics, but more importantly, they allow each school to assess their own individual situation and determine if and when they want to proceed.”
     An IHSA member high school may not conduct workouts under the “Return to Play Guidelines” unless they have local school district approval, and are located in a Health Region that is currently in Phase 3 (or better) under the Governor’s “Restore Illinois” plan. Any school within a Phase 3 Region of the state could begin to implement the Return to Play Guidelines on June 6.
     “These guidelines fulfill the IHSA’s twin commitments to interscholastic sports and the health of the interscholastic athletes that play them,” said IHSA SMAC member Dr. Preston Wolin, the Surgeon/Director of Sports Medicine at Chicago Center for Orthopedics. “The SMAC has taken into account both the most recent news about the virus, and the opinions of experts across the country. Both the SMAC and the Board will continue to monitor events and medical opinions as time moves forward.”
     The Return to Play Guidelines” are aimed at student-athlete acclimatization and general physical fitness, and will not include any skill of sport training elements.  The guidelines detail the allowable activities for student-athletes and coaches, as well as the safety precautions and social distancing that must be adhered to in order to maximize safety.
     “Our kids have been without sports and school for over two months, which has taken a toll on their physical and emotional health, said IHSA SMAC member Dr. Cynthia R. LaBella, the Medical Director at Institute for Sports Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.  “We purposely designed this first phase to focus solely on strength and conditioning so that kids can gradually rebuild their fitness levels in small peer groups with coach guidance.  This will get kids moving again with their peers in the safest way possible, which will have a huge positive impact on their physical and emotional well-being.”
        IHSA’s Return to Play Guidleines” will remain in place until the IHSA or Illinois Department of Health announce further guidelines.
        “We will continue to seek input from our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, while following guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, on what potentially happens next in late June,” said Anderson.
        Obviously, I will lhave more on this developing prep sports story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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