Italian university Politecnico di Torino has collaborated with the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) to release a more-than-400 page report detailing its findings about which sports are safest in a coronavirus-plagued world and which are most dangerous.
The study lists 387 sport disciplines that have been categorized from 0 to 4 depending on the risk of COVID-19 spread. On the scale, 0 represents non-existent risk, 1 weak rise, 2 medium risk, 3 high risk, and 4 very high risk. Among the factors considered are the conditions for training, competition, and public presence.
According to the study, sports that fall into the 0 category, with ‘almost no possibility’ of spreading the infection, are disciplines like sailing, open water swimming, golf, and tennis.
Cateogries 0 and 1, the lowest-risk sports, are all individual sports, though some of these sports that are a 0 during training are rated as a 3 during competition due to the number of athletes that participate.
In terms of team sports, water polo, in category 2, has been deemed to have the lowest-risk of spreading the virus. The study says that the presence of chlorine, while not eliminating the risk (since the virus can spread directly from player to player without contacting the water), does make it the least-risky team sport. Chlorine kills the coronavirus.
Soccer, the world’s most popular sport, is in category 3, because training can easily happen with players 6 feet apart, while rugby, basketball, volleyball, handball, and martial arts are all in category 4 with the highest risk.
Part of the increased risk for these sports is that they usually take place indoors, with higher degrees of contact and in a smaller space. In volleyball, specifically, which was considered the most dangerous sport, it was noted that while there is no contact between opposing teams, in the act of blocking athletes wind up face-to-face with each other. Beach volleyball, with only 2 players and usually played outdoors, is only in category 2, for example.
Politecnico di Torino recommends that players in team sports be tested 48 hours before each match, that reserve players on the benches wear masks, and that all equipment be disinfected.
The study was based on analytical questionnaires sent to sports governing bodies in the country. The full report has not yet been published.
After the initial outbreak in China, Italy was the next country to face a serious coronavirus pandemic. So far, the country has faced 207,428 confirmed cases of COVID-19 that has led to 28,236 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
After a month of a decrease in new cases, Italy is preparing to reopen training facilities to elite athletes on Monday. Italy’s top flight soccer league has voted to finish its season and resume training on May 18th. The study from Torino is designed to contribute to the effort to reopen safely.