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The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework | Part 2: Creating a New Normal—Facility Preparation and Management, Medical Facilities and Campus Facilities

This is part two in a six part series focused on returning to sport. For Part 1 of our six-part series, find The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework | Part 1: Creating a New Normal—Facilitating a Change in Culture document here.

A return to campus and a return to sport participation require an instant change in the culture of sport. Specifically, we must focus on health care personnel and programming—the personnel who will provide healthcare and the programming in place to ensure the safety and wellness of the student athletes, coaches, staff, and the healthcare providers.

Last week the U.S Council for Athlete’s Health (USCAH) introduced the USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework. The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework establishes six categories to ensure your institution has a plan, a roadmap to follow, once campuses are opened for the return of students and staff and for a return to sport participation.

To ensure you are ready to begin the cultural change in sport healthcare the U.S. Council for Athletes Health developed a framework for creating and implementing the new normal in sport healthcare, wellness, and safety. The six categories of the USCAH Return to

Sport Health and Safety Framework are as follows:

Category 1: Return to Campus Protocols—Healthcare Staff, Student Athletes, Coaches and Staff

Category 2: Facility Preparation and Management—Medical Facilities and Campus Facilities

Category 3: Personnel Development and Training—Medical Personnel, Coaches and Staff

Category 4: Programming and Education—Medical Personnel, Students, Coaches and Staff

Category 5: Training and Practice Modifications—General and Sport Specific

Category 6: Sustaining Cultural Change—Programming to ensure the New Normal remains

Without question, a multidisciplinary approach with experts from various areas will be tasked with implementing the framework of a return to campus roadmap created by and in conjunction with institutional leadership. Navigating the roadmap as your healthcare staff, student athletes, coaches and staff return to campus will bring about what we refer to as the Standards of the New Normal. 

As education and healthcare leaders we are now faced with the difficult task of preparing for the return of student athletes and staff to campus and, of course, the eventual return to sport. Our return to sport is still guided by the answers to the three questions below that we daily address in our preparations for the return of students and staff.

  • How can we slow the spread?
  • How do we ensure we have a safe home, safe environment, and a safe campus?
  • How soon can we resume sport participation?

The questions above and the answers to those questions are continually evolving from day to day and week to week. The USCAH team continually monitor these changes to provide your organization the most current information and most recently revealed best practices for your eventual return to sport.

Last week our discussion centered on Category 1: Return to Campus Protocols— Healthcare Staff, Student Athletes, Coaches and Staff. In those discussions we introduced the fundamental components, the metrics of the return to sport, that will be used to provide specific and direct discussion for each of the six categories. These components provide the foundation for discussion:

  • Personnel and Programming
  • Testing and Monitoring
  • Risk Mitigation
  • Social Distancing
  • Personal and Group Hygiene
  • Quarantine Procedures

Additionally, we provided the USCAH Category 1: Return to Campus Protocols— Healthcare Staff, Student Athletes, Coaches and Staff checklist.

Of the six fundamental components that guide our discussion, the most important components to lead this cultural change are the institutional commitment to Personnel and Programming. Health care personnel drive programming and programming drives personnel. The level of commitment by the institution to programming and personnel will determine the overall success of all return to sport participation initiatives and the cultural changed necessary to sustain and continue healthy sport participation.

Each week our goal is simply to help you best facilitate an institutional commitment to cultural change that best serves the healthcare and safety of your student athletes, coaches, and staff.

This week we introduce:

USCAH Category 2: Facility Preparation and Management—Medical Facilities and Campus Facilities

The objective is to create a framework that provides conditions for a gradual return to participation. COVID-19 is redefining our actions, behaviors, and lives in unprecedented ways. It is our personal responsibility to live according to these guidelines in every situation, but also to work critically and innovatively to overcome this crisis and to grow daily. This concept will only be successful if everyone—student athletes, coaches, healthcare staff and all athletic department staff---adhere to the guidelines.

With the implementation of the framework we hope to achieve a gradual resumption of normal training and later competition and to control the spread of coronavirus. To do so, requires protection and safety concepts that must include the prevailing and periodically amended best practices. In the simplest sense, we want to ensure:

  • your facilities are prepped and ready for a return of student athletes, coaches, and staff;
  • you have implemented the necessary precautions in each facility to ensure social distancing and safety for the student athletes to train, eat and sleep;
  • coaches and staff will practice established health and safety norms and ensure the student athletes adhere to the new normal of training;
  • healthcare staff are ready to serve the health, wellness, and safety needs of the student athletes, and coaches;
  • cleaning and disinfection protocols have been established for all student athletes, coaches, and healthcare staff
  • all personnel are educated on the new normal for facility preparation, student athlete training, coach access and proximity to student athletes, and the provision of medical treatments and general healthcare;
  • general and specific guidelines are established and implemented to ensure facilities are cleaned and disinfected prior to, during and after use.

As mentioned, institutional commitment to personnel and programming is paramount to the success of the safe return to sport participation and the sustainability of cultural change. Although Personnel and Programming will continue to be independent categories in each of the six category checklist they are not mutually exclusive—each depends on the other for successful development and implementation of the return to sport participation protocols and to the eventual goal of full, safe participation. 

On the personnel side, the most critical component is the activation of the Athletics COVID-19 Action Team. This team will connect with and adhere to local, state, and federal and international guidelines. From a programming perspective, education is the foundation—education modules must be provided for review by all student athletes, coaches, and staff prior to a return to campus. Once on campus training resumes, healthcare professionals and department staff must ensure the education process is ongoing to meet the ever-evolving and most current requirements/best practices and the control of COVID-19.

However, the most critical aspect of a return to campus and a return to sport participation is the implementation of your Athletics COVID-19 Facility Planning and Response Guide. The implementation will ensure safe facilities and safe training for student athletes and coaches. Additionally, the implementation will provide daily protocols that help to mitigate risk, ensure social distancing, and establish personal and general hygiene practices and an institutional monitoring system. Finally, implementing the Athletics COVID-19 Facility Planning and Response Guide will ensure a strict adherence to quarantine procedures for anyone showing the signs or symptoms of infection.

Implementing a new procedure or policy is simple. Introducing a new process to train, coach, receive medical attention, eat, study, and sleep—a completely new cultural paradigm—is not so simple. A return to campus and a return to sport participation require an instant change in the culture of sport. We must focus on health care personnel and programming— the personnel who will provide healthcare and the programming in place to ensure the safety and wellness of the student athletes, coaches, staff, and the healthcare providers. Creating a new normal and facilitating a change in culture can and will take place with the implementation of the USCAH recommendations and by following the guidelines and checklists provided by the USCAH experts.

The experts at the U.S. Council for Athletes Health have included a comprehensive checklist to provide guidance for: The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework | Category 2: Facility Preparation and Management—Medical Facilities and Campus Facilities. Download the checklist here. 

For Part 1 of our six-part series, find The USCAH Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework | Part 1: Creating a New Normal—Facilitating a Change in Culture document here.

For more information, check out our Return to Sport Considerations for College & University Intercollegiate Athletics article here.

For additional information and programming to ensure your institution is prepared for a return to campus and a return to sport collaborate with USCAH.

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