ECNL Officially Launches their Return to Play Guidelines


On May 26th the Elite Clubs National League today launched the ECNL Return to Play Recommendations basically a free resource to support the safety of players and club staff. The ECNL involves more than three million players in it’s national legues. 
Even if we yet have to witness a significant drop in the pandemic, coaches, administrators and clubs are seeking guidance on how to responsibly re-introduce youth players after not competing for several months. 

The ECNL Recommendations have been created to help players return to the sport, with the associated well-documented benefits physically, mentally, and socially, while abiding by local safe-distancing rules and being cognizant of injury risk from returning too quickly. 

ECNL Chief Medical Advisor Drew Watson, MD:
“Returning to sport is a critical step for the physical and mental wellbeing of our children, but it must be done in the right way, which means factoring in each particular pool of players and the current situation in each community, Our eagerness to give our children the joy of sport should not overshadow the importance of minimizing the risk of injury after the massive drop in physical activity or the potential and not-fully-understood risk of COVID-19.”

The ECNL Recommendations begin with a step-by-step approach to re-introducing players to a training environment.  Some data will show that athletic injuries are most common in the pre-season, basically when players are returning to play after extended breaks, making a step-by-step progression is important for injury prevention, while at the same time doing everything possible to minimize the risk of potential COVID-19 exposure. 

ECNL President Christian Lavers:
“Just getting players back on the field with their teammates and coaches is a really important step as we begin to progress back to sport as we know it, It is critical that we all do this in the right way. The ECNL Return To Play Recommendations were created to provide clubs with resources to help them create their own specific protocol, for their own specific environment, and to support these clubs and coaches as they welcome players back to the environment they love.”

The ECNL Return To Play Recommendations include:

  • Developing a club-based plan
  • Step-by-step guide to a five-phased initiation of training:
    • Phase 1: Training at Home
    • Phase 2: Small Group  Training  at Club Facilities
    • Phase 3: Limited Team Training
    • Phase 4: Full Team Training
    • Phase 5: Local Competition
  • General COVID-19 risk reduction guidelines
  • Protocols for return-to-play following COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infection

The leagues Return To Play Recommendations were developed by sports medicine pediatrician Dr. Drew Watson and are based on the evaluation of more than 12 published protocols over the past 3 years. It is to be clear that the Return to Play Recommendations do not replace in any way local or state requirements, and the Recommendations are not at all mandatory for ECNL clubs.  These Recommendations should be used as a suggestion.

The ECNL is planning to develop Return to Competition Recommendations in the coming weeks, which will be introduced prior to the kick-off of league competition in September.