Safety & Security

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Sports Teams, Facilities Drop Post-Game Handshakes, Citing Safety Concerns

20 Mar, 2020

By: Michael Popke

You might be seeing fewer post-game handshake rituals at youth sports events these days for two reasons.

First, fears of spreading the coronavirus continue to escalate. For example, the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association and the St. Albert Soccer Association have banned shaking hands after games in what one of the organizations calls “a proactive approach to keep the spread of germs to a minimum.”

Because health officials believe coronavirus is not airborne and instead transmitted through what is often called “droplet transmission,” sports administrators are not hesitating to take precautions. “Players are also being urged to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, cough and sneeze into their arms, sleeves or a tissue, and not share water bottles, glasses, mouthguards or utensils,” according to CTV News in Edmonton.

A study published in a 2014 edition of the American Journal of Infection Control claims the transfer of bacteria is much less among people when they engage in fist bumps or high fives rather than traditional handshakes. Its authors, from the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom, encouraged increased use of the fist bump to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases.

Sports teams aren’t the only organizations banning handshakes. As Vox.com reports, “the tech industry is terrified of the coronavirus” and pointed to existence of a sign on the doors to prestigious Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitzthat read: “Due to the Coronavirus, no Handshakes please. Thank you.”

In early February, TheVerge.com tried to downplay the scare, telling readers that “declining to shake hands won’t have much of an impact on the spread of coronavirus because coronavirus isn’t actively circulating in any communities in either country. Turning down an outstretched hand won’t reduce the risk of someone catching something they probably weren’t going to get in the first place.”

Fears of transmitting or acquiring coronavirus, however, are not what drove a youth sports facility operator in Colorado to eliminate post-game handshakes after basketball games. Rather, Michael Peterson, who owns Power2Play Sports in Windsor, Colo., recently introduced the “good luck line” — in which players on opposing teams exchange pleasantriesprior to tip off.

“I think people are less likely to be able to have a disagreement, to be angry and upset at the beginning of a game than they would be at the end, so why put our kids in that situation where four months down the road or a year down the road, we get a fight or a kid get hurts or we have two coaches fisticuff?” Peterson asked the Coloradoan. “We’ve never had that ever at Power2Play, but I also see a trend nationally, where if you pay attention to all this craziness that’s going on in youth sports, why wait for it to happen?”

According to the Coloradoan, Power2Play Sports runs winter leagues for youth and adult players, and the policy is only in place for basketball leagues — not high school and junior college basketball tournaments that the facility hosts.

“Out of all the leagues and tournaments our teams play in, Power2Play does a better job than anybody of trying to manage the whole sportsmanship piece, trying to manage a situation that’s difficult,” Steve Dortch, director of the Fort Collins-based Rocky Mountain Fever youth basketball program, told the paper. “Mike Peterson’s in a tough spot. He’s trying to run a great league with a healthy environment for kids, and sometimes it’s difficult to do that.”

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