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UCSF panel discusses resuming youth sports

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – The state of play – conversations on children’s health – was the theme Thursday for a panel of doctors from UCSF.

The doctors did not shy away from addressing whether or not it’s safe for student-athletes to return to the field.

“What do I think? What do we think as a group here is important to do in terms of schools and sports opening up safely?” said Dr. Cindy Chang, M.D. and fellowship program director of primary care sports medicine at UCSF.

The answer to that question is what coaches, parents, and student-athletes want to know.

Now, this panel of UCSF health care professionals with backgrounds in sports medicine are weighing in on it.

For starters, when it comes to COVID-19, they say among the important things for families to consider is their level of risk.

“There is a lot of anxiety about missing out on sports. Am I going to get a scholarship? At the end of the day, the most important thing is keeping you healthy. Getting COVID is a big deal. It’s not just as simple about playing sports. There will always be sports there and different ways to stay active but, we don’t know the long-term risks of COVID,” said Dr. Nirav Pandya, M.D., chief of the division of pediatric orthopedics at UCSF.

Another factor is lack of equity determining the ability for some schools to make their campuses COVID-ready.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that testing is going to be happening on a regular basis in all of our school systems. We have to determine what is equitable and fair in order and what is the best path forward in order to open our schools and sports safely,” Dr. Chang said.

Although some advocates for getting student-athletes back on the field say when it comes to transmission rates that science is on their side, this UCSF panel says not exactly.

“I think that is a difficult question to answer because the data that’s out there, younger children vs. older children versus adults has been somewhat conflicted,” said Dr. Rhonda Watkins, M.D., assistant professor, pediatric orthopedics at UCSF.

“I think we have a lot of good things to look forward to right now and the opportunity to be active and healthy and get back to those things we tremendously enjoy is coming very shortly,” said Dr. Pandya.

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