Helping People Return to Play – Aspen Institute Creates COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool

May 5, 2020

New resource analyzes risk in a variety of sport, recreational activities

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Jon Solomon
Editorial Director, Sports & Society Program
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, May 5, 2020– The Aspen Institute today announced Return to Play, the first cross-sport risk assessment guide that sets out how various sport and recreation activities can be enjoyed while minimizing transmission or contraction of the COVID-19 virus. The tool is the result of a collaboration between two Aspen Institute programs – the Sports & Society Program and the Health, Medicine, and Society Program. The materials are based on CDC guidelines, and were reviewed by experts from the American College of Sports Medicine and the Hospital for Special Surgery, as well as officials at various national sport governing bodies who shared their input.

The guide is available at:

Currently, governments across the world are encouraging people to stay at home when possible, adopt physical distancing, and implement special hygiene measures in public. Yet many states in America are beginning to gradually reopen. Health experts recognize the role of outdoor recreation and exercise in promoting mental health, physical fitness, and cognitive development. The CDC recommends daily physical activity for both children and adults while also recommending no organized sports or activities, given the many challenges of containing the virus in group settings.

Priority consideration in this guide is given to lower-risk forms of participation, most of which involve free play or individual training. Individuals can select the sporting activity that’s right for them, such as running, basketball, or soccer, and the guide provides recommendations from low-to-highest risk methods to engage with the activity and connects them to additional resources. The guide will be updated on a weekly basis with additional activities and will respond to changing physical distancing guidance.

“Over the past month, Project Play has developed an array of resources to help parents, coaches and leaders in youth sports navigate the myriad challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Sports & Society Program. “We hope this tool helps kids get active again, safely.”

“Our goal was to create a tool for individuals and families to assess risk in a variety of common sports and recreational activities based upon the best available research from health experts. Using our tool can help you decide how to stay active based on your preferred activity or sport,” remarked Ruth Katz, Executive Director of the Health, Medicine, and Society Program at the Aspen Institute.

The authors note that this document should be treated as a general informational resource only, rather than medical advice or a recommendation to participate in any one activity over another. Reliance on any information provided here is solely at the individual’s own risk, and the Aspen Institute recommends that users consult with their own qualified health providers or other advisors about any specific issues or circumstances.

The Sports & Society Program’s mission is to convene leaders, foster dialogue, and inspire solutions that help sport serve the public interest. Since 2011, the program has provided a venue where thought leadership and breakthrough strategies can be developed on a range of opportunities. The program’s signature initiative, Project Play, develops, applies and shares knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports. Project Play has created a resource page on coronavirus and youth sports, including reports, webinars and Frequently Asked Questions.

The Health, Medicine and Society (HMS) Program, the domestic health initiative at the Aspen Institute, seeks out bold, creative, and practical solutions to the health and medicine challenges facing the United States in the 21st century. As a magnet for some of the nation’s sharpest leaders, intellects, and practitioners, HMS promotes cross-disciplinary learning, disruptive thinking, and broad dissemination of knowledge designed to build better health for all.

The Aspen Institute is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. Based in Washington DC, the Institute also has campuses in Aspen, CO, and on the Wye River in eastern Maryland, and maintains offices in New York and several other cities. For more information, visit


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