Does playing football (soccer) lead to SARS-CoV-2 transmission? - A case study of 3 matches with 18 infected football players

Sci Med Footb. 2021 Nov;5(sup1):2-7. doi: 10.1080/24733938.2021.1895442. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


The risk of viral transmission of SARS-CoV-2 associated with football (soccer) training and match play is unknown. Therefore, studies on infection-relevant contacts in football are of utmost importance.A retrospective video-based analysis was performed over 3 matches with 18 SARS-CoV-2 positive players (age: 17.6 ± 3.1 years; 2 professional, 2 semi-professional and 14 youth academy players) during the pre-season in August and September 2020 in Germany. Repeated RT-PCR tests were performed in 5 of 6 teams and pre-match RT-PCR tests in 4 of 6 teams. The last RT-PCR test ranged between 5 - 14 days post-match. The most important result was that no case of virus transmission was found as documented by RT-PCR tests (and symptom monitoring up to 14 days post-match). Physical contact between contagious and non-infected players never lasted longer than 3 seconds each and the position of players during duels was almost exclusively laterally or behind each other.In conclusion, very low risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission during football match play has been documented. Nevertheless, due to the observational retrospective design of the study, which was based on ethical reasons, inconsistent RT-PCR testing should be regarded as limitation and larger studies are needed to confirm a low probability of virus transmission.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2 transmission; exposure risk; football-specific contacts; risk of infection.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Soccer*
  • Young Adult