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Sports teams keeping it clean

Squads work to stop virus from spreading

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Manitoba's pro and amateur sports teams are trying to play it safe when it comes to the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The Manitoba Moose put in place just this week a new policy that removes all towels from the players' bench. Players will now be expected to wipe their sweat off with their jerseys.

Six players are currently battling flu symptoms, an outbreak that came just two days after the team returned from a nine-day road trip. All six were checked by doctors on Tuesday and all came back negative for H1N1.

But one player, Eric Walsky, was undergoing further testing as a precaution, simply because Walsky also has asthma.

"We're paying a little more attention to these things," said Moose head coach Scott Arniel.

"When someone said they had a cold, we might have blown it off. Now we're paying more attention to these things... There's probably a little more care being taken," he said.

"It's making sure the guys have their own water bottles, it's not using towels... It's making sure that wherever they go and whatever they have contact with, whether it's the bikes or exercise equipment, everything gets wiped down. It's the hand sanitizers that are always available," Arniel said on the eve of two home games starting tonight against the Wilkes-Barre Penguins.

"...When they're feeling any kind of symptoms, they need to see (Moose trainer Rob Millette) right away...Trying to really nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem."

The Bombers say they're just sticking to their old game plan: keeping it clean.

"Quite frankly we haven't changed a whole lot of what we've been doing before," said Bombers athletic therapist Al Couture.

"Sanitation was a high priority for us every season. We use the same ozone machine the Moose use. Our water bottles go in it, our training room, locker room and equipment room are cleaned throughout the day and our players are instructed to wash their hands, as they've always been."

High school athletes, meanwhile, are keeping it clean -- and friendly.

They're advised to use their own water bottles and towels, wash their hands before games and practices -- and during, if possible -- but there is no need to stop shaking hands, says Morris Glimcher, executive director of the Manitoba High Schools Athletic Association.

"We're not going to make you shake hands," said Glimcher, but the MHSAA does not believe it is necessary to stop shaking hands, as long as students are cleaning their hands thoroughly and regularly.

"We have guidelines on our website, which I circulated to (school division) superintendents last week," Glimcher said Wednesday.

"A lot of school divisions have their own regulations. School divisions, it's their students and their schools, not our students."

Glimcher said the MHSAA will further discuss H1N1 measures when its board meets Monday.

High school volleyball, hockey and football are well underway and basketball will start soon.

Glimcher said the MHSAA has not yet addressed how schools should handle activities such as volleyball and basketball, in which all the players from both teams as well as officials regularly handle the same ball.

Maybe, he said, there should be hand sanitizers in the gym, and everyone should wash and sanitize at the start of games and practices and again at halftime: "My gut answer is that would make sense," he said.

When schools go away to tournaments, said Glimcher, bring your own sanitizers, towels and water bottles: "Don't rely on the facilities, bring your own."


-- With file from Gary Lawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2009 A4

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