Pause in High School Sports Puts Student-Athletes at Risk

When the coronavirus pandemic brought high school sports programs in South Florida to a grinding halt this spring, coaches and sports medicine specialists worried that fall-sport athletes would lack the conditioning and training they need to compete once practices and games resume.

Baptist Health’s Resource team spoke with John E. Zvijac, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida, and Frankie Ruiz, head cross country coach at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and co-founder of the Life Time Miami Marathon.

Watch video: The Baptist Health Resource team speaks with orthopedic surgeon John E. Zvijac, M.D., and running coach Frankie Ruiz. Video by Stephen Pipho.

Resource: What concerns do you have for student-athletes that have been sidelined for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic?  

John E. Zvijac, M.D., orthopedic surgeon with Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute

Dr. Zvijac: “If somebody hasn’t run for six months and they go back to running all of a sudden, a lot of these things that you take for granted are gone and you have to re-educate and retrain these in the older athletes,” says Dr. Zvijac, a sports medicine specialist who also serves as medical director of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools high school athletics program. “One of the things that you see in high school athletes especially is they believe that they can go from zero to a hundred in a second, and that’s going to be a big issue.”

Resource: What should these student-athletes focus on when they return to sports?

Frankie Ruiz, head cross country coach at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and co-founder of the Life Time Miami Marathon

Mr. Ruiz: “I think as coaches we have a tremendous responsibility here to advise kids to be a little more patient with their development, and assume this was an athlete that had had some catastrophic injury that may have left him out of the sport for six months,” Mr. Ruiz says. “That’s the way the coach has to approach nearly every athlete here, and the way the athletes should approach their sport as well.”

Resource: How important are hydration & nutrition in the success of these athletes?

Dr. Zvijac: “Nutrition and hydration is paramount to athletic endeavors here in South Florida and especially anything outside, which is most of our sports. We’ve always had a very rigid formula and it served us very well here in South Florida. But it’s always concerning every year and I think this year there’s going to be even more heightened awareness of the issues because of not knowing exactly where everybody is in terms of their conditioning and acclimatization to the temperatures and the humidity here.”

Resource: Frankie, what advice would you give runners at this time?

Mr. Ruiz: “Have patience. Some of these kids haven’t seen a starting line since March – that’s a long time for an athlete that’s been running for the last 10 years or so. They should see this period as training not to compete but to get better at training.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.