USAHockey.com: Is it safe to play hockey now?
Dr. Michael Stuart: Yes, I think it’s safe to return to many activities, provided we follow the advice of our health-care professionals. Returning to hockey is no different than returning to many other aspects of our lives.
USAH: What can players do to make sure they’re staying safe once they get on the ice?
MS: The players need to adhere to the basic principles of personal hygiene, social distancing, protective equipment and a clean environment. This includes frequently washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and using personal water bottles and towels. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to it. So, we certainly want to avoid close contact with anyone who is sick. If they’re not sick even, you want to maintain a distance of six feet when possible by avoiding crowded locker rooms, getting dressed at home, putting on and taking off skates while sitting on chairs that are spaced out in the lobby.
Social distancing is more difficult when on the ice, but USA Hockey has done a wonderful job designing small group practices with novel drills that decrease close player contact. We discourage chalk talks, goal celebrations and post-game handshakes. There are other ways to congratulate and acknowledge both teammates and opponents that don’t involve direct contact.
We should wear cloth-type masks in a public setting; for example, arrival and departure from the arena. Our hockey facilities are well aware of the principles of disinfecting surfaces and equipment after each use.
USAH: What are some specific things that the players and their parents need to understand about the ways they should be cleaning their equipment?
MS: Sanitize your hands as soon as you leave the ice, wipe down surfaces with disinfectants and clean your equipment, including stick, gloves and helmet. There may be some advantage in wearing a full shield that can block some droplets if people sneeze or cough. However, no currently available facial protection can prevent inhalation of aerosolized droplets.