03-Nov-2021 - Universität Basel

Coronavirus: minimal transmission risk when playing football

Caution still required

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.

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.

Almost no risk of infection on the field

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.

Caution still required

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.

Facts, background information, dossiers
More about Universität Basel
  • News

    How an Emerging Drug Class Dampens Harmful Immune Reactions

    Although the complement system forms part of the innate immune system, it can cause damage to the body in some cases. This is because unwanted complement activation contributes to many autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases. Now, researchers have described molecular details of a recen ... more

    How Covid-19 Causes Neurological Damage

    Although the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 does not infect nerve cells, it can cause damage to the nervous system. Researchers from the University of Basel and University Hospital Basel have studied the mechanisms responsible for this effect, known as “neuro-Covid”, and identified startin ... more

    Sugar molecules as a target in cancer therapy

    Cancer cells use sugar molecules on their surface to disable attacks by the body’s immune system. Researchers at the University of Basel now report on how this mechanism can be neutralized. The immune system is actually extremely well equipped to get rid of abnormal cells. As a safety mecha ... more

More about Uni des Saarlandes
  • News

    Killer cells get better with age

    The human immune system is a thing of wonder. Up until now it had been widely assumed that the ability of killer T cells to destroy tumour cells and pathogens would deteriorate with age. It turns out, however, that the opposite is true – they become better killers, the older they get. This ... more

    How vitamin B12 affects Alzheimer's disease

    "Vitamin B12 is involved in a variety of important metabolic processes that contribute to blood formation, cell division and nerve function, among other things. Vitamin B12 deficiency also occurs in the Western population, and the risk here increases with age, with one in five people over t ... more

    Physicists prove that microplastics can damage cell membranes

    Over 70 million tonnes of microplastics are in the oceans. They are then ingested by marine life and humans through rain and airborne transmission. Two physicists, Jean-Baptiste Fleury of Saarland University and Vladimir Baulin of Tarragona University, have recently discovered that micropla ... more