La Crosse doctor says UW-Madison study on COVID-19 and high school sports is promising

La Crosse student athletes await kickoff off seasons while health experts learn more on its impact on COVID-19 spread
Sports And Covid

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Friday night lights will not shine for every student athlete in La Crosse. La Crosse school district families are still waiting to live out their fall sports seasons. There is a new study that may help turn the light back on for those kids.

The radio silence at Roger Harring Stadium is usually the calm before Friday night kickoff for La Crosse Central football.

“We’ve got a lot of camaraderie,” said Deston Woolley, a senior at La Crosse Central High School. “We’re basically brothers, that’s basically what it amounts to.”

That silence will not crescendo this fall. La Crosse schools did not elect to have fall sports in 2020 due to COVID-19.

“That’s probably the hardest part for me is not getting to be with my teammates,” Woolley said.

Woolley watches the highlights of other student athletes on nights like Friday night.

“It’s hard. It’s like, that could be us,” Woolley said.

Some families are left waiting, hoping with no knowledge of when their children will play.

“I really empathize with all those families, those athletes, I mean this is their identity,” said Dr. Joe Poterucha of Mayo Clinic Health System.

A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s medical school looked at 207 schools representing 30,000 athletes that restarted sports in September. The study found that high school sports have not contributed to an increase in COVID-19 infections among athletes. Poterucha said this study is not perfect.

“It’s not necessarily peer reviewed so there’s probably room for critique,” Poterucha said.

But he said the study’s authors have a point.

“Cross country and girls tennis, they actually had lower incidents rates compared to the general population,” Poterucha said.

Safety for group activities largely depends on the nature of case spread in a community.

“Those case rates are very dependent on what the community activity is,” he said.

He said this data is still important.

“We need to be honest with the data instead of just shutting everything down,” Poterucha said. “Let’s actually look at it and make some common sense decisions using science.”

Woolley is missing out on his senior football experience.

“This could be the last time that I’m ever going to play sports on an actual team,” Woolley said.

For him his senior year is worth more than a score.

“It’s out of our hands there’s nothing we can do,” he said. “We can argue. As much as we don’t like it there’s nothing we can do and we just gotta make the best of the moments we do have.”

Deston said the plan right now is for his team to play their season in the spring.