What are high-risk school sports?

A child can benefit from sports both mentally and physically, where anyone in an organized setting can play sports in the street, school, or even in the backyard. When children play in a sport, the correct safety measures need to be taken. Because kids’ bodies are still growing, and their coordination is not developed entirely by that time. Precautions can vary from wearing the correct safety gear to having appropriate enforcement of game rules under adult supervision.

Be aware of these high-risk situations and make sure that your child is playing sports safely:

  • No adult supervision
  • Inappropriate skill, physical and psychological maturity level, weight for the sport,
  • Unsafe playing environment
  • Faulty or ill-fitting safety gear and equipment
  • Lack of enforced sports rules
  • Not enough water or other fluids

According to guidance from the governor’s office, high-risk sports in New York, disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, can resume on Feb 1, 2021.

In a guidance sports and recreation document from the New York State Department of Health, an individual or group training and organized no/low-contact group training can start next month, i.e., Feb 1, with other games or tournaments being allowed by local health authorities.

Since a December announcement from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, high school winter sports deemed “high-risk” have been on hold indefinitely. The DOH’s guidance opens sports to resume where the NYSPHSAA would be held until authorized by the state.

The high-risk sports include:

  • Cheerleading
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Lacrosse
  • Volleyball
  • Hockey
  • Wrestling

The NYSPHSAA had already canceled winter state championships. Last month the NYSPHSAA announced that high-risk sports over all seasons would be suspended until reauthorized by the state, preventing the scheduled start of the high-risk winter sports.

On Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may have allowed the high school sports listed as high risk to begin practice and play from Feb 1.

Those sports had been indefinitely suspended as the Cuomo administration weighed the risks of playing them during the COVID-19 pandemic, including boys and girls basketball, wrestling, football, and lacrosse. The Cuomo administration has approved local officials’ decisions, which means each county’s health department will determine which students can play sports.

The governing bodies for public high-school sports in Suffolk and Nassau Section VIII and XI concluded in August that they would not hold athletics in the fall and instead opted for three compressed seasons. Moderate- and low-risk winter sports are already permitted and began play about two weeks ago.

On Friday, guidance from the governor’s office issued states that high-risk sports may begin practice. Students can play on Feb 1 only if permitted by the respective local health authorities such as county health departments.

Importance of Sports in students’ life:

  • Better Life Skills:

Students or individuals who played competitive sports or tournaments in high school demonstrate more leadership, confidence, and self-respect. They are better at managing their time and setting goals. They have a more developed sense of morality and a better appreciation for diversity. Individuals who played various competitive sports in their youth tend to earn comparatively higher incomes than those who did not. High school sports participation can also make a difference in achieving power. 80% of female executives played sports after primary school, and 60% of these women executives admitted that sports participation in their youth allowed them a competitive advantage in the business world.

  • Greater Well-being:

Student-athletes exhibit stronger peer relationships, higher self-esteem, a closer sense of family, more volunteerism, and better attachment with adults. These people are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior. They have a greater understanding of personal responsibility, persistence, and initiative. A survey of over 15,000 teens found that those who participated in sports were less likely to smoke cigarettes, drugs, and carry weapons.

  • Better Health Outcomes:

Participation in sports is a lead sign of improved fitness and health. The guidance says high-risk sports can participate in tournaments and competitions as permitted by the county health departments. CDC proposes that children ages 6 to 17 participate daily in at least one hour of workout or physical activity.

Those students who play in high school sports and remain physically active are less prone to encounter any heart diseases, cancer, obesity and, consequently, suffer lower health care costs in their lifetimes.

Effective Feb 1, 2021, participants in higher-risk sports and recreation activities may participate in individual or group training and organized no/low-contact group training and may participate in other types of play, including tournaments and competitions, only as permitted by the respective local health authorities.

Local health authorities should consider the following circumstances in authorizing or proceeding to prohibit higher risk sports and recreational activities as individual factors may count against permitting such activities:

  • Local COVID-19 transmission rates or speed of positivity,
  • whether there has been a more-transmissible variant of COVID-19 identified in the area,
  • local ability to monitor and enforce compliance.

This guidance issued by county officials on Tuesday applies to high school sports and youth and adult leagues.

Officials of Erie County say the high-risk sports can resume in the county with certain conditions and recommendations in place:

  • For moderate- and high-risk sports- if a coach or an athlete has a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, all team or group activities will be canceled for ten days.
  • All current NYS Travel Advisory supervision for quarantine will apply to athletes, coaches, and family members who choose to travel to non-contiguous states. Travel for any tournaments and competitions outside the Finger Lakes regions and WNY (Western New York) is entirely pessimistic.
  • Athletes are advised to wear an appropriate cloth face covering or mask when not playing or practicing. For students under 18, a player may wear a mask or a covering cloth while practicing or playing.
  • ECDOH gives its permission for sports and various physical activities in Erie County’s orange zones to travel for games and tournaments within the WNY region and the Finger Lakes region. Licenses for sports will get reviewed periodically to consider county-level and regional transmission rates and other data. Besides, teams from other counties with the Finger Lakes and WNY region may travel into Erie County to participate in tournaments and other game activities.
  • The use of locker rooms is strongly prohibited. As per NYSDOH guidance, if locker rooms are used, they must be only for cleaning or disinfecting.
  • Each sports team is responsible for screening all coaches and athletes and COVID-19 symptoms for every team event, including tournaments, practice, or scrimmage. Individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or exposed to a COVID-19 case in the past 10 to 15 days cannot participate in the sport or join spectators.
  • Observers are limited to two per player. Also, indoor sports facilities are limited to allow 50% of capacity into their facility.
  • The vaccination state does not change any regulatory requirements.
  • For Sports and Recreation, all other requirements described in the January update to the Interim Guidance must be followed by recreation activities, sports teams, and facilities where games and practices are held. School athletic directors, league staff, sports facility directors, and coaches are strongly urged to review this guidance and take specific measures to ensure current team, and league operations follow this updated guidance.


The updated guidance reads:

“Participants in higher-risk sports and recreation activities may participate in individual or distanced group training and organized no/low-contact group training practical from Feb 1, 2021, and, further, may participate in other types of play, including tournaments and competitions, only as permitted by the respective local health authorities.

Any other Western New York counties have released no official information at this time. News has reached out to each county’s health department for a narrative.