Le Bonheur chief on COVID: Contact sports at school not safe for kids yet

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MEMPHIS, Tenn, — Le Bonheur Children’s hospital pediatrician in chief says he does not think it’s safe to go back to contact sports like football right now. 

Dr. John McCullers says we have high levels of community transmission, meaning there’s no good answer to returning to school. 

“We know that if kids go back to school we’re likely to see transmission within the school, perhaps transmission in the faculty and staff and perhaps transmission back into the homes,” he said.

But McCullers, with the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and pediatrician in chief at Le Bonheur, acknowledges the need for some students to physically be at school too.

“Having face-to-face learning is the best way for kids to learn. It’s very important for their socio-emotional development, very important because that’s where they get a lot of nutrition, in terms of school breakfast and lunch as well as their physical activity through the PE programs,” he said.

Just this week, Shelby County Schools, Tennessee’s largest school district, announced all classes will be virtual for the foreseeable future. But some of the other smaller districts in Shelby County plan to offer virtual, in-person and hybrid options for students.

McCullers says it’s crucial to take an individualized approach when making decisions about what works for families. 

When asked about students and sports, McCullers and Shelby County’s Health Department director say that, as part of the Back to Business Task Force, they’re waiting for more the state guidance to react. 

But on the topic of sports, McCullers was clear.

“Taking off my back to business hat and speaking as a pediatrician, and from the standpoint of Le Bonheur, it’s very clear from the medical perspective that with the degree of transmission we see in the community right now it is not safe to go back to contact sports such as football,” he said.

A Back to School Task Force has also been formed to help give guidance schools and parents. More information can be found on their website.

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