Scientists warn football: Players face increased Covid-19 health risk when sport restarts

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Scientists warn football

On Wednesday, the Times have dug into a scientific report into the risks of restarting football amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report was published on The Lancet – a highly respected medical journal.

James Hull, Mike Loosemore and Martin Schwellnus – who are members of the department of respiratory medicine at Royal Brompton Hospital – joined together to write a paper on the possible Covid-19 effects when sport restarts.

The paper, which was published on April 8, is titled: Respiratory health in athletes: facing the COVID-19 challenge.


Even though footballers are elite athletes they face significant risks

The experts have warned professional footballers and elite athletes that the risks posed by contracting Covid-19 may be greatly increased by returning to sport.

In an important finding, the paper concludes:

It is recognised that there are cohorts of athletes and para-athletes with heightened susceptibility to viral respiratory tract infection and cohorts with known chronic medical conditions, such as airways disease (seen in approximately 20% of all endurance athletes).

Increased risk of COVID-19 transmission during training is more likely in certain athletic settings where athletes train in groups, engage in contact sports, do not adhere to universal guidelines for social distancing, make use of shared equipment, do not practice universal guidelines to maintain personal hygiene, and use common facilities such as changing rooms.


How many Premier League footballers have respiratory issues?

The best data we have on this issue comes from December 2017, as reported by the BBC.

The University of Kent and the Royal Brompton Hospital, London conducted a joint study into exercise-induced asthma in elite footballers.

97 footballers took part. That included players from two Premier League clubs, one Championship club and a League One club.

So what were the results?

27 footballers (28%) tested positive for airway or breathing problems.

Of those 27, 10 footballers (37%) had no previous history of asthma or respiratory issues.

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Within this context, it’s worth noting that one club owner has recently told Sportsmail that they’ve told a player with asthma that they can’t return to any training as the risks of contracting Covid-19 and developing a serious illness are too great.


What happens if players contract Covid-19 after football restarts?

The best guidance on this issue has come from the FIGC – the Italian FA.

They’ve released a new set of guidelines, which addresses this issue head-on.

According to the FIGC, if one player in a team tests positive, the likelihood is that every member of the squad will need to return to strict isolation.

During this time, players should be tested twice daily over a period of 5-7 days.

Also, the clubs will need to clean and sanitise all their club facilities.


Also see: Eredivisie 2019-20 is effectively cancelled, 3 options for finalising the season & the impact on Chelsea.

Best Netflix, Amazon & YouTube football documentaries & movies to watch during coronavirus isolation.

This article was edited by
Ben Green.


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