Fall sports are back in Arkansas! The games will be the same, but safety recommendations due to Covid-19 are going to change the look of everything else. We asked Dr. Michael Israel, director of Sports Medicine at Arkansas Children’s what parents and players can expect this season. If your young athlete is injured during the big game, don’t delay care! The Friday Night Sports Injury Clinic at Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock is open from 10 p.m. to midnight.

This season is going to look, feel and sound different, how can athletes return to sports safely?
Things are going to look different - but mostly outside the lines. The game itself will be relatively the same with a few minor changes. For example, in football the sidelines are going to be widened so players can socially distance and the time-outs are going to be longer to make sure they can clean equipment and get athletes hydrated using separate water bottles.

Coaches will be wearing masks on the sidelines and players should be wearing one when they are not playing. In the stands, every other row is going to be occupied. Groups of families will be separated by at least six feet. But once the whistle blows, the game will look the same.

Why is important for an athlete to come to our Friday Night Sports Injury Clinic instead of waiting it out through the weekend?
The main reason is to start the treatment plan; we don’t want to waste any time. By evaluating the athlete on Friday night, we can get the right images and hopefully make a diagnosis and get the treatment plan started.

What is the difference between coming to Arkansas Children’s Friday Night Sports Injury Clinic compared to a regular ER?
One difference is that your athlete is going to be seen by a sports medicine specialist. So if you go to any ER, you’ll be seen by an ER physician and they’ll do a quick evaluation and then you’ll be referred out. By coming into the Arkansas Children’s Friday Night Sports Injury Clinic, you’ll be able to see a specialist from the start and the process is going to be faster.

What types of injuries do you usually see during our sports injury clinics?
Pretty much anything that can happen in a sporting event! Things from simple fractures to ligament tears in knees to head injuries or anything that could potentially happen.

If an athlete is injured during the week at practice, what should they do? 
So anytime an athlete gets injured, they need to notify their athletic trainer or coach at school. Plus, they need to be seen as soon as possible, locally here or wherever is convenient. Same idea goes for Friday night, the earlier we can get an evaluation and treatment plan, the less likely they are going to miss an extended amount of time.

How are our athletic trainers keeping student athletes safe during this time and what procedures are they following to stay healthy themselves?
They have to work extremely hard! There are normal things, especially during summer - watching for heat illness and signs of dehydration and setting up cold tents. They will also be managing return to play protocols with concussions.

They will be out there in the heat with masks, gloves and goggles keeping themselves and the athletes safe. They’re also going to be in charge of making sure the training room is sanitized, the equipment is clean and coaches and athletes are social distancing.

What can athletes do before and after the game/practice to stay healthy and keep their teammates, coaches and trainers safe?

The biggest thing is to follow the directives (from the CDC): social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands. Our biggest hurdle this year is going to be kids who are quarantined or potentially infected. So we need to make sure student athletes go to school, go to practice and maintain distancing after practice. One potential exposure could impact the whole team.

Don’t delay care for your injured athlete! Visit the Friday Night Sports Injury Clinic at Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock. Use the button below on Friday nights to let us know when you're on the way.