"Should I get vaccinated?"
One of the most-polarizing questions in America may soon have an answer for student-athletes across the country.
As school districts everywhere are desperately trying to wrap up the complicated 2020-2021 athletic calendar, state associations are doing everything to make the next fall season as "normal" as possible.
One way to ensure a safe season is mandating each student-athlete and coach to get the Covid-19 vaccine in order to compete this fall.
Though no state is yet to require vaccinations, some are pushing to offer testing exemptions and mask-free games when individuals' "vaccination status is checked by the school."
For doctors who care for student athletes, the vaccine isn't just a measure to help athletic directors schedule a season. It is also a way to protect athletes at all ages, despite the sport they play.
"For student athletes, Covid-19 can cause trauma on the heart, trouble with endurance, and increased fatigue," says Dr. Danielle Grant, a physician in Austin, Texas, who works with high school athletes.
Dr. Grant says while the vaccine will most likely prevent you from having to quarantine during a big game, athletes should see it as a more important precaution.
"Studies show that Covid-19 symptoms are more mild after someone is vaccinated," says Dr. Grant, "and hospitalization rates are essentially zero."
Athletes rarely think twice about taping their ankles to avoid a sprain. Similarly, they should see the vaccine as a way to keep them on the field and performing at a high level.
And don't forget what it could mean for the rest of your team.
"By getting the vaccine," continued Dr. Grant, "you're preventing yourself from getting that illness, but it also protects your teammates and it protects your community, too."
As more medical professionals and athletic directors see the benefits of what vaccinations will do for groups of student-athletes, we are sure to start seeing announcements that require them across the nation.
Do any states require athletes to be vaccinated before playing fall sports?
Currently, no state athletic associations are making vaccines mandatory for student athletes in 2021.
As high school sports are governed on a state-by-state basis, there will not be a clear answer until the summer on which states may require a vaccination.
Early in the process, though, some states are offering testing exemptions for athletes who have been fully vaccinated in hopes of making the 2021 fall sports season as "normal as possible".
These exemptions mean that athletes in some states who receive their vaccinations this summer will not have to be tested regularly throughout the year.
Michigan was among the first states to announce this, hoping volleyball and football athletes will be motivated to go get vaccinated.
Officials from the MHSAA, Michigan's governing body for high school sports, announced that student-athletes "who have been fully vaccinated will be exempt" from COVID-19 test requirements as of May 31st.
Similar announcements were made on the other side of the country.
In Oregon, OSAA officials announced on May 19th that fully-vaccinated players, parents and coaches are "no longer required to wear masks at outdoor sporting events".
The Oregon State Athletic Association will defer to their member schools, saying that “these provisions are optional for the venue operators."
In Texas, a letter sent by an athletic trainer in Austin to parents brought the issue to the forefront in late April. KVUE reported last month, that a letter mandating vaccines for student athletes at McCallum High School was sent accidently.
As of May 25th, all major school districts in Central Texas are "not requiring students to get vaccinated."
How can student-athletes get the vaccine and prepare for fall sports?
Getting a vaccine to ensure an athlete can play this upcoming season, regardless of the requirements, is easy.
The best way to get started is to visit your family physician and talk about the sports you play. Doctors can offer advice on what to do and what not to do before and after you are vaccinated.
To find a place to receive the vaccine, reference the CDC's website, vaccines.gov. Here, you can search based on your location and find a convenient place to get it done.
After you are vaccinated, make sure you pay close attention to changes in your body and consult a physician, school nurse, or athletic trainer before you return to the field.
While you may not see it personally, the advantages of the Covid-19 vaccine will help athletes everywhere return to the field of play safely and quickly.
Scotty Jenkins is a staff writer for GMTM covering all sports. He grew up in Nebraska in the midst of the Husker football dynasty of the '90s... and has been aging rapidly ever since."