Can we still play sports in times of Covid? The sports world is one of the most affected by the resurgence of the coronavirus since the start of the school year. In areas of high circulation of the virus, sports halls, gymnasiums and swimming pools have been closed by prefectural decree, sometimes in the cacophony: covered pools have been banned in Lyon but not in Paris, yet at the same level of alert, while theaters have obtained the right to reopen in certain cities such as Rennes.
In cities affected by the curfew, it is no longer possible to play sports outside your home after 9 p.m. Only certain priority audiences, such as minors practicing association sport or high-level athletes, are not affected by these restrictions.
On October 10, 90 personalities from the world of sport, led by Zinédine Zidane, have co-signed a petition to demand the reopening of sports structures throughout France, arguing that no source of contamination had been identified by regional health agencies. What we do know, however, is that on October 5 Public health France identified 233 sources of contamination linked to a sporting environment, i.e. 6.95% of the clusters listed since the start of the pandemic. This is much less than in family and professional circles, but this number has been rising sharply since the end of summer and the resumption of sports competitions.
Few studies on the subject
What sports should you recommend or avoid to limit your exposure to Covid-19? The world analyzed for forty disciplines press articles on documented clusters, scientific recommendations on the risks associated with physical activity, federation protocols, and general scientific studies (such as those from the Australian Institute of Sport and of the Polytechnic of Turin) and specific (in particular that on a cluster in a squash hall).
A certain uncertainty emerges: academic studies on sports clusters are rare and often little direct evidence can incriminate the specific practice of an activity. Certain biases complicate the exercise. The most widely practiced sports are statistically more likely to be affected by positive cases, and activities generating significant economic activity are the most tested, at the risk of creating a magnifying effect.
Thus, the cluster of Paris-Saint-Germain footballers received a lot of media coverage in September, when it happened during the players’ holidays in Ibiza, and not during training or a match. Conversely, very smart will be the one who knows how to quantify the contaminations born around skateparks, areas of sporting activity with free access devoid of supervision, referent and epidemiological monitoring. Likewise, French fitness rooms argue that they have had few clusters; but they were also closed a good part of the year.
Group sports in the sights
Several general lessons nevertheless emerge from this overview. They confirm the hypotheses on which the re-entry protocols were established: group sports in poorly ventilated confined spaces (fitness, dance, squash, etc.), team sports with large numbers and based on contacts (football, handball and especially rugby ) or martial arts involving melee (such as wrestling or judo) present the most documented risk of contamination.
Conversely, individual outdoor sports (canoeing, Nordic walking, swimming, skiing, etc.) offer reduced risks. Some racket or even team sports are doing well, because they are practiced in the open air without close contact (tennis, baseball) or because they are light versions in terms of the number of participants and physical interactions. more well-known sports, such as handball four-a-side or flag rugby (no tackle).
Be careful, however, sports that are inherently low risk can be a pretext for indirect contamination, as many clusters in the mountains or on sports campuses have shown. Locker rooms, faucet handles, basin ramps, showers, braces, car pooling … All these extras of physical activity are sometimes as much at risk, if not more, than the activity it -even.
Finally, several of these disciplines exist in disabled version, with more or less the same restrictions and recommendations. As with any physical activity, everyone must take their own health constraints into account, particularly if you have vulnerability factors to Covid-19 (age, obesity, diabetes, etc.).