Sports are back, agree or not. We went from not sure there would even be a high school sports season to full seasons, full speed ahead for all.

It’s still my job and the job of health care providers everywhere to do what we can to keep everyone safe and healthy. That’s why I will continue to preach safe practices. Frequent hand washing. Social distancing. If you think you’re sick, get checked out. Wear a mask.

On a football field, on a soccer pitch, on a volleyball court, social distancing is impossible. Impossible.

I was asked this week what would happen if several athletes on any one team tested positive for COVID-19. I had already admitted that this sports season may be the most difficult, the most daunting of all my 42 years of dealing with athletes.

I honestly don’t know what would happen. We have gone through every possible scenario and tried to plan for every contingency, but that one question has been hard to answer.

But it’s my job to have answers. So here’s mine: We tighten down. We do everything we know to do more diligently. We never look the other way or take shortcuts. Everybody washes their hands. Everybody wears a mask when possible. Social distancing at every opportunity.

I see those shortcuts everywhere. Group photos. Large gatherings where social distancing is not observed. I understand the overwhelming need to return to some degree of normalcy but I also see a huge upsurge in COVID cases here in Blount County.

I preached last week that if this community wants its sports, that the whole community has to take ownership.

I was asked about the “herd immunity” thing this week, too. That has been suggested as the ultimate solution. I don’t think that will be the case. This thing is nasty and poorly understood. And it kills.

A vaccine is necessary. Think smallpox. The smallpox vaccine has almost eradicated the disease around the world. Almost.

A better understanding of treatment is necessary. We are already better at treating it than in the early days. Medical science has not yet caught up, but it is improving. But we have neither a vaccine nor an effective way of treating it yet, so we must do everything we can to keep it from spreading, especially spreading to those most vulnerable among us.

In dealing with all the COVID mess, I had forgotten that there were other issues that we had to deal with. We had about 25 days of 90+ degree weather in July. August promises more of the same.

Again, we are faced with problems that are a bit unprecedented. For football, we usually provide ice towels. These stay soaking in a cooler of ice and water between usages. We can’t share those any more so they are almost useless to us.

We often provide ice baths (ice + water in a horse trough…really) on really hot days. This has been available to everyone. It isn’t the most pleasant thing but there is no doubt that it aids in recovery and that you feel better once you get out. We can’t do that anymore.

It’s just a lot of little things that we have to do to keep our athletes safe. I never thought I would see a reason to have hand sanitizer on the sidelines or courtside. I believe you will see it everywhere from here on.

Let me repeat one point — we all have to take ownership in fighting this thing. Sure, healthy young folks aren’t likely to die from it, but they can carry it to others, those that are older or those with co-morbidities, and they could quite likely die from it.

The thing that should scare us all is that we can be contagious and never know it. Think about that, and then think about who you might come in contact with and pass it to.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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