By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s tough to socially distance in most sports.

So, even the younger players know that the love of the game must still compete with a very real concern about whether that next play could also lead to COVID-19. So, 17-year-old Marcus Heard’s solution was to trust the science.

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“I’m fully vaccinated,” said Heard, while playing a tournament at the Duncanville Field House on Friday. He says his vaccine side effects were mild, and the protection was worth it. “I haven’t contracted COVID… that’s why I did take the vaccine.”

“I’m a little frustrated that other people don’t take it as serious,” added his mother, Shenita Heard. Heard says her youngest basketball loving son is not yet eligible for a COVID vaccine. Still, she couldn’t let the COVID risk bench him.

“I just couldn’t watch him stay miserable,” says Heard. “He has a passion for the game. He has played since he was little. All his friends were playing. Staying in the house wasn’t working.”

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And some local experts say he shouldn’t have to.

“I think it’s important to let parents know that it is safe for kids to participate in sports,” said Troy Smurawa, MD, Director of Sports Medicine at Children’s Health Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

Dr. Smurawa says outdoor sports are safer. But the risk for all athletes is reduced when everyone, vaccinated or not, is masked, socially distanced when possible, and staying aware of symptoms — especially when there are unvaccinated members of the household. “If there are any issues get checked out early enough, and then do appropriate measures to protect younger children.”

Dr. Smurawa says a decision on whether the vaccine is appropriate should be made with the family physician — or in the Heard household, with Dr. Mom.

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“I can’t wait for them to make it available for that age group,” said Heard. “I may be the first one in line.”