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Two local studies release findings on school sports during a pandemic

Posted at 8:47 AM, Apr 27, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS — School sports have played a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately 100 students and 300 parents in Indiana have talked about moving forward in the age of masks and social distancing for two new studies. The studies were implemented as a way to help schools plan ahead for fall.

At Hamilton Southeastern High School, student-athletes have been keeping track of their sport and safety. Their health is a priority during this ongoing pandemic.

"We are adapting, reinventing. We are figuring out how we got to operate," Greg Habegger, Hamilton Southeastern's athletic director, said.

"Making sure that we had a source of water, water bottles. We're wiping down the seats and chairs," Habegger said. "It has been an incredible challenge."

While athletic ability is easy to see, the same can't be said for mental health concerns.

It's the focus of two new studies from the IUPUI School of Health and Human Sciences.

Among the key findings from the 100 students and 300 parents:

  • 23% of parents believe COVID-19 had a negative impact on a child's future college plans including potential athletic scholarships.
  • 33% saw a negative effect on their child's schoolwork.
  • 45% of high school athletes reported negative mental health symptoms.

"To include feeling sad, down, confined, lack of concentration, changes in appetite perhaps suicide ideation," Victoria Garcia-Wilburn, an IUPUI assistant professor, said.

"Talking to them is really a good first step. Never turning a blind eye especially when health is questioned," Brianna DePue, an IUPUI doctoral student, said.

The other study of about 3,000 parents from Indiana and surrounding states looked at kids involved in travel sports.

Most parents are more comfortable with restrictions for indoor venues over outdoor venues. Universally, it's popular for increased sanitization to continue, and for sports facilities to disclose their expectations.

" It was important for them to know what COVID-related adaptations were going to be so they could adapt and adjust and what to expect when they get there," Dr. David Pierce, an IUPUI associate professor, said.

The goal of these studies is to benefit schools as they plan their fall sports schedules.

"We should certainly maintain public health measures like masks and distancing but we can also achieve a balance of sports youth participation for the many positives youth development factors that are attributed to sports," Garcia-Wilburn said.

It's good to get a pulse of what local families are thinking and what they need and want.