Flu worries on the field

Kids shaking hands after a match

Flu worries on the field

Courtesy: The Vancouver Sun (link to article)

(extracted from a larger article)

Those who run kids’ sports leagues are concerned about everything from handshakes to mouthguards


By Chris Yzerman, The Ottawa Citizen

August 29, 2009

After a hard-fought battle on the pitch, it’s customary for soccer players to exchange handshakes in a gentlemanly gesture of goodwill.

With the threat of a large-scale outbreak of the H1N1 virus looming this fall and winter, however, some local indoor players may buck tradition and it won’t have anything to do with a lack of sporting grace.



“Handshaking at the end of the game should not cause any issues and we encourage it, but if players feel they are in any danger of either passing the flu on or catching it from someone, we want to make sure everyone is comfortable in a friendly good game with no handshaking,” says Paulo Bellem, chair of the Ottawa Carleton Futsal League.

Last year, more than 1,800 men, women, boys and girls participated in futsal, an indoor form of five-aside soccer, at various schools and gymnasiums throughout Ottawa via the OCFL.

But faced with what health officials are warning may be a particularly harsh flu season, the league is just one of many minor sports organizations and associations in the Ottawa area that are being forced to look at ways to curb the threat.

“We as a league are concerned about swine flu and the effects it may have on our players,” Bellem says. “We are monitoring and will continue to monitor the situation throughout the year to make sure there is nothing more we can do, for example, moving games due to an increase in the number of cases in the community and/or with our players.”

For most, they’ll start by reinforcing the message regional health officials have been trumpeting since fears of a potential pandemic arose in the spring, among them: frequent washing of hands, coughing into one’s arm/elbow, staying home if feeling sick.

“We will let the (team) managers and players know that it is important to be aware of how one feels and to respect others in the league, and encourage the managers to tell their players to stay home if they are not feeling well,” Bellem says.

“We also will encourage people to bring hand sanitizer if they feel the need.”

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