The Return: COVID-19 isn't the only safety concern for players in workout return

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Coaches and student athletes should ramp up to workouts carefully, Hamilton Sports Medicine athletic trainer Whitney Laurent said.

With the return of Georgia high school athletes to organized workouts on Monday, a major topic is how to keep the players safe amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19).

Talks of distancing, sanitizing, screening and cleaning dominate conversations between coaches as they prepare to try to prevent any potential exposure to the virus when students arrive back on campus to resume workouts.

Another safety concern? How to help players that have been away from organized team workouts for some three months now adjust to activity again.

“Personally, my biggest fear is that some of these athletes haven’t been doing much physically over these past few months,” said Whitney Laurent, an athletic trainer with Dalton’s Hamilton Sports Medicine. “I’m concerned with what kind of injuries may result from that stagnation.”

When an athlete tries to ramp up to too much activity too quickly, Laurent said, that can increase their susceptibility to minor injuries like pulled hamstrings or rolled ankles and put them at risk for greater harm. The best practice, Laurent said, is to ease back into activity.

"The competition factor is obviously what you're after, but you don't want to get anybody hurt," Coahulla Creek High School head football coach Danny Wilson said. "Getting those kids in shape and making sure they're physically ready to go is probably the most important part.”

Most teams have been sending workout lists to their players during the almost three-month hiatus, but Laurent said not everyone will react in the same way to those at-home workouts, and not everyone has access to the same equipment.

“Let’s say they haven’t ever played a sport before and start from there with a basic conditioning plan,” Laurent said. “You’ll still have those that are prepared, but you can progress as you go. Let’s test the waters, see where we’re at and go from there.”

That’s the advice Laurent is giving to the coaches at North Murray High School, where she is assigned as the school’s trainer through Hamilton Medical Center. Laurent said she plans to be at some of North Murray’s upcoming workouts and be available to help players should any need arise.

Laurent said players should be aware of the adjustment when returning to organized practice, even if they’ve been active in the interim. The temperature, which is forecast to reach as high as 90 degrees in Dalton on Monday, can also be a factor to monitor.

“The players need to hydrate more than they think they need to,” Laurent said. “I would tell them to be very self-aware. They need to know whether it’s something they can do and watch for being dizzy.”

Despite the concerns, Laurent said the return of physical activity for players is a positive.

“Kids in general need to be active, so I’m excited we’re finally able to start this again to give them an outlet for their energy and begin preparing for the season,” Laurent said.

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