By CBSLA Staff

ALISO VIEJO (CBSLA) — Corona del Mar High School’s championship football team will get back to full-contact drills Friday for the first time in 14 months.

“We’ve missed all of the spring practices, we missed all of the 7-on-7 workouts, stuff where you’re really fully speed in game mode, which is different than just straight conditioning,” Dan O’Shea, head coach, said.

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Youth athletes in Orange and Los Angeles counties playing sports like football, lacrosse and water polo finally have the green light to resume outdoor competition after being sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while it’s an exciting prospect for students and their coaches, Dr. David Gazzaniga, a surgeon at Hoag Orthopedic Institute, said it’s also a time for caution.

“There’s a lot of bodies that have changed quite a bit over the course of the year,” Gazzaniga, who is also the head team doctor for the Los Angeles Chargers, said. “No practice can truly recreate what it’s like to be in a game.

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“You can’t match the speed, the intensity, the output of energy in a game,” he continued. “Some kids will be more ready than others, so that’s something to be very careful about.”

O’Shea said he was also concerned about his students’ health and said he plans to rotate his players to cut down on fatigue, which can lead to injuries, and limiting the amount of contact during initial practices.

“We’ve got to trust that years prior they know how to tackle and do some things, but the last thing we need is for them to be in a position to be banging each other into these bodies that are not in their normal shape right before the season,” he said.

Aliso Niguel High School high hurdler Evan Lunt said he was focused on avoiding a hamstring injury as he makes the transition from home practice to competition.

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“I have a home gym in my garage so I’ve been working on my muscles, making sure they’re nice and strong and strong and prepared for the season,” he said. “Just the intensity is not the same I would say. Practice you don’t have the adrenaline and you don’t have as much a drive as racing against other people.”