Coronavirus Updates & Hospital Visitor Policy

How a Professional Team Handles Social Distancing and Time Off During a Pandemic

By: Bobby Weisenberger, MS, ATC, PES
Athletic Trainer
MUSC Health Sports Medicine

The Charleston Battery had a very productive preseason. The players were getting back into the daily grind of high-level competition and working hard to gain match fitness. After a month and a half of training and preseason games it was time to get the season started. The official match season started on the road in Atlanta on March 8th. The preseason work paid off and the Battery claimed a 1-0 victory.

Enter Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Toward the end of preseason and during the first official week of the season we were seeing reports of COVID-19 from around the world and the cases in Washington state. The virus was starting to spread rapidly across the United States. During this time, the team was still allowed to train and prepare for an upcoming game in Birmingham scheduled for March 15th. After all there were only 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in South Carolina and no confirmed cases in Alabama. During training on March 11th we learned that our game in Hartford was postponed as the virus was spreading all around the New York area. More states were being affected by COVID-19 and travel was going to become a concern. On March 11th the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. On the 12th the United Soccer Leagues made the decision to postpone all matches for a minimum of 30 days.

We would be allowed to train as long as we were self-monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. On Friday the 13th we had a team meeting with full team, technical staff, and team physicians to educate everyone about COVID-19, what to look for, and what to do if you feel like you have been infected. Then on Saturday we had our last team session following a league mandated moratorium on training. Players were instructed to shelter at their apartments, do not have group meals with other players, and do not organize group workouts/training sessions. Players were also advised to practice social distancing and avoid group settings like restaurants, bars, and parties (after all it was St Patrick’s Day weekend).

The coaching staff and medical staff met on Monday to discuss the situation that was still evolving. The decision was made to lock down the facility and have players continue to shelter at their apartments only having contact with their roommate. Each player was also ordered their own personal thermometers so they can personally monitor for fever. Since group training and workouts are prohibited, the coaching staff has provided each player with exercises, drills, and running goals that they can complete on their own to try to maintain fitness. Players who were undergoing physical therapy that could not be completed at home were permitted on a one on one basis. Some of the players got creative with their entertainment and training. 

AJ on March 17th completing the #StayHomeChallenge.

On March 18th following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in conjunction with other professional leagues the United Soccer Leagues decided to extend the postponement of league matches through May 10th.

At this point the moratorium on training extends through March 22nd. We are temporarily scheduled to begin training again on the 23rd and will do so as players continue to monitor their health and only come in if they are symptom free. This however is an evolving situation and league meetings are happening daily. As more and more cases are confirmed, the schedule could change at any time and the moratorium on training could definitely be extended for weeks. If this occurs the players will continue to shelter in place and staff will provide another set of exercises and fitness goals to try to help the players maintain their fitness. Hopefully as a community we can flatten the curve and slow down the spread. We are in unchartered waters and want to safely be back on the field as soon as possible.

To be continued…