Team sports research

Coronavirus and soccer: study investigates transmission risk

A study by the Universities of Basel and Saarland shows that there is almost no risk of transmission of the Covid-19 virus on the field. They suggest that blanket quarantine measures for opposing teams are not justified if no close contact has taken place off the playing field.

soccer players greeting before a match

Image source: Unsplash/Lars Bo Nielsen

Governments have introduced various measures over the past 18 months in an effort to curb transmission of the Covid-19 virus. This includes limited training opportunities for team sports such as football. But to date it has been difficult to quantify the actual risk of infection during training or matches. Now, a research group at the Institute of Sports and Preventive Medicine at Saarland University, led by Dr. Florian Egger and Professor Tim Meyer in collaboration with exercise scientist Dr. Oliver Faude from the University of Basel, has looked into precisely this issue. Funding for the study came from the German Football Association.

The researchers published their findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The research team collected details on almost 1,300 suspected cases of coronavirus infection from professional leagues, amateur football and youth clubs between August 2020 and March 2021. From this, they identified 104 situations in which it was highly likely that an infectious player had taken part in a training session or game. Using contact tracing and detailed video analysis of a total of 21 games, the researchers then evaluated potentially relevant transmission channels. The video analysis showed that contacts relevant to infection are rare in football matches and generally of very short duration. In two of the 104 cases examined, the research group could not completely rule out transmission on the field. However, in both these cases other potential channels of transmission were possible, including private meetings, unmasked bus journeys and contacts at work.

The researchers conclude that outdoor sports activities with minimal physical contact pose a very low risk of infection and are therefore a safe option for sport and exercise during the pandemic. They therefore suggest that hygiene measures and directives from the health authorities should be restricted to situations off the field with no blanket quarantine measures for opposing teams if no close contact has taken place off the field. But before these findings are incorporated into policy decision processes, it is important to note that the data was gathered before the Delta variant had become the dominant variant of the virus. Moreover, only professional leagues conducted regular PCR testing of the entire team up to two weeks after the positive test of a player. Clubs in the amateur and youth sector followed the recommendations of the respective authorities for PCR tests with a policy of 14-day monitoring of symptoms. This means that asymptomatic cases may not have been recorded.


Source: University of Basel

02.11.2021

Read all latest stories

Related articles

Photo

Genomic tracking

Retracing the Covid-19 pandemic in England

The Covid-19 crisis that gripped England between September 2020 and June 2021 can be thought of as a series of overlapping epidemics, rather than a single event, say researchers at the Wellcome…

Photo

Immune response study

Is a "natural" Covid-19 infection better than vaccination? It's complicated

Hope for a future without fear of Covid-19 comes down to circulating antibodies and memory B cells. Unlike circulating antibodies, which peak soon after vaccination or infection only to fade a few…

Photo

Immunological memory

How our lungs 'remember' a Covid-19 infection

After infection with SARS-CoV-2, where does the immune system store the memory to provide long-term protection against reinfection? Though numerous studies have examined blood to track immune…

Related products

Associates of Cape Cod – Fungitell STAT Assay

Identification/Susceptibility

Associates of Cape Cod – Fungitell STAT Assay

Associates of Cape Cod Europe GmbH
Beckman Coulter – SARS-CoV-2 Assays

Immunoassays

Beckman Coulter – SARS-CoV-2 Assays

Beckman Coulter Diagnostics
Hologic – Novodiag System

Automation & sample processing

Hologic – Novodiag System

Hologic, Inc.
Lifotronic  SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Detection Kit

Immunoassays

Lifotronic SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Detection Kit

Lifotronic Technology Co., Ltd