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Youth sports in the wake of COVID-19: a call for change
  1. Andrew Watson1,
  2. Jennifer Scott Koontz2
  1. 1 Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
  2. 2 Department of Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, Newton Medical Center, Newton, Kansas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andrew Watson, University of Wisconsin Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI 53726, USA; watson{at}

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on virtually every facet of life throughout the world. Among youth athletes, the cancellation of school and sports was accompanied by decreases in physical activity and significant mental health consequences. The reintroduction of sports has varied considerably, with the full return of sports in some regions and continued restriction in others. Given that youth sports faced serious problems prior to the pandemic including high costs, professionalisation, decreased participation and barriers to access,1 we should consider more than just returning to ‘normal’. This unexpected pause provides an opportunity to not only guide the return to youth sport participation but invest in programmes and organisations that increase physical activity and increase access to sports for all children.

Impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on young athletes

Physical activity and sports participation have a wide range of physical and mental health benefits in children.2 Unfortunately, the restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in significant reductions in physical activity and worrisome increases in anxiety and depression in young athletes. For example, in a survey of over 13 000 adolescent athletes throughout …

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  • Contributors AW and JSK contributed to the development of this editorial and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.