FARMINGTON – The New Mexico Activities Association has mandated guidelines for students returning to athletics and sports activities in a post-COVID era that include a mandatory sports physical.
The mandate from the NMAA, which was updated Feb. 4, states that to attend practice, students who have tested positive for COVID-19 must receive clearance from the New Mexico Department of Health before returning to any physical, athletic activity.
Students who had COVID-19 and completed a 10-day quarantine will need a medical clearance form completed by a physician before returning to an athletics activity.
San Juan Health Partners Pediatrics nurse practitioner Katie Jarvis said children might have cardiac injury from the virus even with mild cases of COVID-19. The most common issue health providers have reported is mild carditis, or inflammation of the heart.
“It can be mild enough that they don’t notice it until they increase their physical activity,” Jarvis said Friday. “It can cause sudden cardiac death. It’s very rare, but it is serious.”
The risk is higher for people who had moderate to severe COVID symptoms but is still possible for those who had mild cases.
The recommendation is that all students get a sports physical prior to play; however, the state mandates that people with COVID must complete a sports physical.
A sports physical, according to Jarvis, is “pretty routine,” and most of the athletes in the area have one every year prior to play anyway.
“A typical sports physical includes a cardiac exam, a neuro exam. Most families and athletes see it as a normal physical exam not much different than a well child exam,” Jarvis said. “However, we do ask a few more questions during sports physicals, such as if the child has a history of concussions or any history of cardiac disease or illness.”
Jarvis said parents and coaches should watch for symptoms in children or teens who have had COVID. They include:
Chest pain with increased activity.Dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness with increased activity.The symptoms could mean the student athlete needs to see a health care provider. Physicians usually run diagnostic tests such as an EKG or cardiac echo to check the athlete’s heart.
Student athletes may get physicals at their physician or at the San Juan Health Partners Pediatrics, which doesn’t require a child to already be a patient.