Return to Youth Sports Begins as Estimated $2.4 Billion Loss to Youth Sports from COVID-19 May Grow

    By Kathleen Berger, Executive Producer for Science & Technology

    The training and dedication by young athletes and families drive youth sports, an estimated $19.2 billion industry. The national economy is hit hard by the sudden disappearance of sports during the coronavirus pandemic.

    A sports expert from the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis estimates the loss to youth sports to be at least $2.4 billion, and he said he believes his estimate is “conservative”.

    Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Olin, estimates the shutdown of professional, college, scholastic, community and recreational sports across America has impacted the sports industry by $12 billion.

    “And that number could more than double,” Rishe said.

    Rishe estimated the initial $12 billion by examining publically available data and focused on the months covering the shutdown from COVID-19 through the end of summer, taking into consideration phases of reopenings and restrictions. He said losses for youth sports are felt across the country.

    “Part of that is families traveling to various designations across the country and spending money on restaurants and hotels, and registration fees to get their kids in these tournaments,” said Rishe.

    One St. Louis area organization was in the national spotlight when it was among the first in the country to reopen early by hosting a youth baseball tournament in mid-May on Mother’s Day weekend.  An infectious diseases expert at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said a baseball tournament in May was too soon.

    Jason Newland, MD, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and faculty member at the School of Medicine, is part of a collaboration of medical experts from St. Louis health care systems providing recommendations for the return to youth and high school sports in the St. Louis area.

    “I love sports, I love to watch sports and I want to see sports back as soon as we possibly can. In the meantime, these are our children and our loved ones who care for the children,” said Newland.

    BJC HealthCare/Washington University Physicians, Mercy and SSM Health/SLU Care collaborated to offer coaches, athletic directors, and parents recommendations for resuming organized sports and activities.

    The clinical team of experts recommends a four-phase approach to bringing sports back, with the opportunity of phase one starting June 15. Each phase builds up the amount of interaction players may have with each other, with the additional phases pending continued stable or downward trend of COVID-19 cases in the region. Every sport has a plan of action under the categories of high frequency contact sports and low frequency contact sports, leading to the possibility of local games and competitions.

    “I believe by being thoughtful, understanding of the risks, thinking who’s at greatest risk, putting the things in place to limit the transmission, puts us in the best position,” explained Newland. “We have to do it as a community, as a state, as a country. The more we do this together, the better off we will be in the end.”

    The recommendations help establish guidelines for private and small group training, practices, sports camps, games and competitions.  The document covers everything from health screenings before every activity, coaches and officials wearing face masks, hand hygiene, disinfecting equipment and balls as much as possible, limitations on the number of spectators, social distancing and face mask guidelines for spectators, and much more.

    Newland said it’s ultimately for families to decide what’s best for them, as there are risks for engaging in all sports during a pandemic.

    “It’s a balance. It’s a difficult balance. That’s why this has been so hard for everybody because what is the right decision? And one could argue the only way you’re going to know if it’s the wrong decision is if something bad happens,” said Newland. “And that’s what makes these decisions a lot harder. One might say the easy thing to do is to not do anything until this is completely gone. But there’s some significant negative consequences to doing that.”

    return-to-sports-recommendations The following recommendations are the result of a collaboration among sports medicine and pediatric infectious diseases professionals in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. SSM Health, BJC HealthCare and Mercy have collaborated to provide recommendations as it relates to the resocialization of both youth and high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic in the St. Louis region.

    Return-to-Sports-FAQ-5-28-20 The St. Louis Sports Medicine COVID-19 Task Force has created this frequently asked questions guide to help individuals understand the Resocialization of Sports Recommendations.

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