With a continued rise in COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and many schools committed to online learning, will high school and college sports resume this fall, and if so, how can athletes stay healthy and safe?

Nathaniel Jones, MD, a primary care sports medicine specialist at Loyola Medicine, and the team physician for Division 1 Loyola University Chicago, says participation in fall sports will require a slow, graduated and thoughtful return to practice and play, strict adherence to local and national safety protocols, and the flexibility to pivot as data and science evolves.

Dr. Jones, who is also counseling several Illinois high schools and universities on a safe return to fall sports, says: "With all the safety guidelines in place, students are going to have to get used to a new normal that includes maintaining the integrity of rules and safety protocols, along with regular testing and screening. Science and data, and the ability to adequately follow protocols (local, state and national guidelines), should determine if and how high school and college sports proceed in the fall. While we realize the mental component--how important and beneficial it is to participate in sports--we're also thinking about safety. If cases continue to rise, if the protocols can't be followed, then there should be a delay in the return to sports."