NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The current priority for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is taking care of our most vulnerable, but eventually, once vaccines are accessible to all, it could impact how sports leagues are able to operate.

Mass-testing allowed leagues to start back up again. So, how much could vaccines open up the sports world?

An NFL spokesperson reiterated the league’s stance that no one in the NFL – players or personnel – should jump the line to get the vaccine. But, discussions have already begun as they plan for the future. Before the league mandates anything, they will work in tandem with the NFL Players Association to ensure it works for both sides.

At all levels from the NFL to the TSSAA, vaccines provide hope and more opportunity.

“It’s actually been nice to sort of shift from just talking about mitigation strategies and try to keep our head above water, to trying to sort of look forward and say ‘what are the next challenges ahead of us?'” said Director of Vanderbilt Youth Sports Health Center. Dr. Alex Diamond.

“Some of the challenges are good challenges to have and that’s thinking about a vaccine rollout and really vaccines are our quickest way to get back to a normal we are all yearning for,” Diamond continued.

Dr. Diamond was a member of the TSSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee but now works in a consulting role. He said the wait is longer for high school athletes in particular.

“You have to understand that the vaccine is not approved for those under 16, and actually only one vaccine is approved for those 16 and above, so we have to wait a little bit on that. But, there are several trials going on including several at Vanderbilt,” he explained.

When the vaccine does become available for those younger, Dr. Diamond recommends to get one as soon as it’s available to you.

“I think as our world opens, so does sports, and that’s a really exciting thing for all of us,” he said.

“We know the benefits that sports can provide for our young people not just from a physical standpoint but from a mental health standpoint.” Diamond added, “I think as long as we can continue to stay safe and again, the vaccine allows us to make further strides, that we can get back to that level of engagement for kids. Getting them back to school and getting them back to sports, I think that would be really exciting to do that.”

As vaccinations gain momentum, News 2 digs deeper into what it will take for Tennessee to get into the home stretch of fighting COVID-19.
Join us for special reports on ‘The Vaccine Moving Forward‘ all day Thursday in every newscast.