Contagious diseases in competitive sport: what are the risks?

J Am Coll Health. 2000 Nov;49(3):105-9. doi: 10.1080/07448480009596291.


Great concern is often expressed over the possibility of contagion among athletes in competitive sports, particularly sports with much person-to-person contact. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is only the most notorious of infectious agents; potentially, other viruses, bacteria, and even fungi may be involved. Because of the concern, however, special attention is paid to HIV and hepatitis B infections. For most of the infections considered, the athlete is more at risk during activities off the playing field than while competing. Inclusion of immunizations against measles and hepatitis B among prematriculation immunization requirements (PIRs) for colleges and universities would eliminate these two diseases from the list of dangers to college athletes and all students. Education, rather than regulations, should remain the cornerstone in considering the risks to athletes from contagious diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Air Microbiology
  • Blood-Borne Pathogens
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Health Promotion
  • Hepatitis B / transmission
  • Herpes Simplex / transmission
  • Humans
  • Immunization*
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Sports*
  • Students
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Universities