Doctor says it’s time to give high school football a try in Delaware

About 50 parents and school age athletes voiced their displeasure with Governor Carney’s decision to keep teams from playing sports. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

The DIAA’s sports medicine advisory board filled in a lot of the details about how high school sports can be played in a pandemic on Tuesday night.

One of the bigger recommendations was that medium-risk sport athletes should have to wear masks while they’re competing — not just high-risk sport athletes in football and wrestling.

The chairman of the group, Dr. Michael Axe, also said he believes that it’s time to give playing football a try — while following appropriate guidelines, of course.

“I feel that the football coaches have done a great job of making football as safe as it possibly can be,” Axe said during the group’s on-line meeting. “There are adjustments in just about everything, … The recommendations from DIFCA have been far-reaching. I’m sure it’s going to be (chaotic) when it first starts.

“But I think they’ve done their job. They’ve convinced me that they’re not going to have too much contact time. I believe they’ve earned the opportunity to try.”

Axe’s comments come in what figures to be a decisive week for fall high school sports in Delaware.

Last week, Governor John Carney said the state would allow football to be played, provided that players wear masks during competition and follow other guidelines.

The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association is expected to revisit the idea of playing sports in the fall at its September board meeting on Thursday. As of now, ‘fall’ sports are slated to start in late winter because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Football is not only the sport that draws the biggest crowds in the fall but also the one that’s drawn the most concern because of the amount of contact involved in it.

Axe did stress that his football recommendation is based on the guidelines the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association assured him that its members would follow. He said he had every intention of making sure they adhere to them.

There any number of guidelines that are expected to be followed, such as limiting contact sessions to 15 minutes at a time.

As for masks, studies have said that continuous running should be limited to 18-23 minutes at a time. With that in mind, the group recommended that soccer be split into four 20-minute periods rather than having traditional 40-minute halves.

Field hockey is already changing from two 30-minute halves to four 15-minute quarters this school year. There should be five minutes of rest in between.

Besides field hockey and soccer, the other medium-risk sports that would be required to wear masks are baseball, softball, girls’ lacrosse, flag or 7-on-7 football and volleyball. Swimming and running sports would be exempt.

Probably the biggest message during Tuesday’s meeting, which was repeated often by members, was that people involved in athletics need to wear masks and practice social distancing.

An on-line parents’ group continues to push for sports to be played in the fall. Only a small group of about 50 people turned out for a rally in Georgetown on Tuesday night.

The sports medicine advisory group drew about 122 people, including board members.

After the governor’s football announcement last week, the DIAA said it would survey its superintendents and heads of school about the change in the situation.

It also said it will continue to receive petitions for reconsideration or revision of Emergency Regulation 1010 and will consider such petitions at its meeting on Thursday. Anyone who wishes to submit a petition may do so by mailing their petition to the DIAA Board of Directors, Delaware Department of Education, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover, DE 19904 or emailing their petition to

“DIAA remains committed to protecting the physical well-being of all student athletes and ensuring fair competition among member schools,” read the DIAA statement.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.