What is the risk of catching Covid-19 while practicing sports? -West France Evening Edition

Lecturer at University Côte d’Azur by Valérie BOUGAULT

What is the risk of being contaminated with coronavirus while practicing sports? Valerie Bougo, a lecturer at the University of Nice Sofia, details the risk of getting Covid-19 in the gym and pool … her explanation is as follows:

In France, like anywhere else, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily lives for over two years. Depending on the level of virus circulation, the impact will be greater, but less. The continuous wave was very strict at first and then led to more forgiving containment measures. These measures vary from country to country, especially when it comes to sports practice. This is also highly valued for its benefits.

If there is literature on the risk of transmission of various viruses in sports halls in 2019, it is not to say that the latter does not exist for newcomers like the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. Was also relatively poor. This did not really reveal the risks posed by practicing in a closed environment, using collective equipment, local sports such as soccer, or martial arts.

Individual outdoor practices had to be determined with certainty, even if they always seemed to be low risk … in fact, the lifespan of the virus on different surfaces and in the atmosphere was unknown. Therefore, a survey was conducted between 2019 and 2021 to provide answers to these questions.

Risks associated with aerial transmission of the virus

During exercise, we spit out many particles of various sizes, most of which are aerosols. These particles can propagate around us over more or less short distances (up to 2 m for aerosols) and settle on the surrounding surface or remain suspended. However, it can carry viruses containing SARS-CoV-2 … and the latter has been shown to be able to continue to infect the surface for hours and days in the form of aerosols.

During intense physical effort, this phenomenon is further amplified. The number of aerosols exhaled from the mouth and nose can be 30 times higher than at rest. This will be even around the athlete, including behind the athlete. The more intense the athlete’s breathing, the more aerosol produced. The amount of aerosol produced by a complete activity also varies greatly from individual to individual. Therefore, it can be a “super spreader” for aerosols, as it produces a large amount of saliva, cough, and effort to breathe.

In the face of all these discoveries, it was important to know which practices were the most dangerous, why and how to protect yourself. You now have data on both indoor and outdoor team and individual sports. This is summarized here.

Not just individual outdoor sports are developed. In fact, they don’t seem to cause transmission problems, so there’s no specific research on them. Of course, this is subject to the fact that this activity is actually carried out individually for the production of the above aerosols, or for the use or sharing of equipment that may be “contaminated”.

At the gym or fitness center

At the gym, pollution can come from athletes, staff, or coaches. (Example photo: Daniel Cellulo / Unsplash)

Not surprisingly, due to the variety of work done on this theme, fitness centers and indoor sports halls, regardless of their size, appear to be a place of communication.

Perhaps 20-68% pollution rates have been observed, depending on the number of visitors to the room, the efficiency and type of ventilation, the size of the room, the activities carried out, and the hygiene measures taken … From athletes, staff and coaches that can occur. Contamination has also been observed in squash, even though they do not share individual equipment.

These rooms are equipped with a highly efficient particulate filter (HEPA), which, in combination with effective air renewal, significantly reduces aerosol concentration peaks. Up to 98% in recent studies (depending on room size and rate of change in air). This type of filter also halves the time required to remove virtually all aerosols.

However, the surest way to avoid the spread of the virus is to respect a sufficient distance (more than 2 m) and to prevent the aerosol from spreading during exercise. This is why it is recommended to wear a mask in accordance with hygiene regulations during a pandemic. Wash your hands before entering the room and do not share bottled water …

The mask under consideration is the N95 / FFP2 type, but keep in mind that it is not suitable for endurance efforts. Especially for athletes, it is not suitable for strenuous exercise. It is not required in competitions and there is no data on its effectiveness. During long hours of intense exercise or training. On the other hand, laboratory stress tests for medical purposes (cardiopulmonary stress tests) show that shortness of breath is greater and awareness of effort is more painful, but appears to be non-hazardous in this context.

Therefore, ideally for all sports exercises, wear the mask indoors during low to medium intensity training, but not during intense training. If the mask is not supported (dyspnea or discomfort, diminished perception of the effort provided, etc.), the intensity should be reduced to return to acceptable levels.

In the swimming pool

What is the risk of getting Covid-19 in a swimming pool? (Example photo: Serena Repice Lentini / Unsplash)

Contrary to some common beliefs, swimming pools are not a breeding ground that encourages Covid. If defective, chlorine is a very effective disinfectant against viruses and bacteria. Studies have shown that SARS-CoV-2 is no exception, and that chlorination of water at legal doses is effective against its diffusion. For pools using other sterilization techniques, there is a lack of data.

A Danish study examined SARS-CoV-2 infection within a population of club swimmers throughout Denmark. The authors estimate that if one of the other swimmers is positive, the risk of being SARS-CoV-2 positive in the swimmer is only 1%. This is very low compared to the general Danish population (caution, special Covid hygiene rules were in force during this study). Results equivalent to 19.5 pollution in 100,000 hours of activity.

The authors also suggest that competitive swimmers appear to be at higher risk of transmitting the virus to each other than recreational swimmers. There are two possible reasons for this. Probably because there are a lot of people in each lane in training, and because they generally know each other well, they are likely to be near the pool.

Outdoor team sports (rugby, football, etc.)

These activities require the risk of contamination to be isolated before and after the implementation of general and specific hygiene measures for high-level sports.

The SARS-CoV-2 infection was investigated in professional athletes during a rugby Super League match where hygiene measures were in place. Despite their proximity, and some of their aggressiveness towards Covid, the game itself does not seem to contribute significantly to the spread of the virus. The observed positive cases that appeared were more related to carpooling, environment, or social activity.

The same has been observed in both professional and amateur football, where physical contact between the two participants was typically within 3 seconds.

Also, there seems to be no contamination from the surface of the club’s various facilities (changing rooms, toilets, pantry, etc.) that are regularly disinfected.

However, these are players subject to anti-Covid hygiene rules on structures whose surface is regularly disinfected. Therefore, it cannot be generalized to either before hygiene measures are introduced or what can happen to a child’s audience.

Martial arts

There are no specific studies on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within structures that host martial arts. (Example photo: Ron Luck / Pexel)

There are no specific studies on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within structures that host martial arts.

However, due to the proximity of participants, these activities carry a significant risk of transmission due to the above reasons for aerosol production. This was affected very quickly (and for a long time) by the measures associated with Covid-19, either by the distance imposed (contact specific to most of these areas) or by the closure of specialized rooms. Meaning that.

Practicing high-level sports in fashionable situations

For high-level athletes, practice involves certain events that can cause pollution. These are competitions such as the just-finished Beijing Winter Olympics.

In the case of epidemic waves, or high prevalence, SARS-CoV-2 contamination rates are high not only among athletes but also among the general public. This actually increases pollution within the team. Therefore, a rigorous testing system (of athletes and staff) and a “bubble” system have been established. At the level of international and national competitions, like the recent Olympics, this is a headache for both participants and organizers …

A system of “bubbles” specific to sports-adapted health protocols was introduced by the Global Association of International Sports Federation Medical Committee to ensure competition conduct with minimal transmission. In particular, the French government and federations have also introduced health protocols specific to the continuation of sports.

Bubbles are often made up of teams, staff, and athletes who test negative for SARS-CoV-2 and should avoid contact with people who are not part of the bubble, with or without vaccination. ..

Hygiene and distance measurements apply inside and outside the set, including outside the competition itself. This group is tested by qPCR prior to competition. It is usually tested 72 to 24 hours in advance, and as needed, depending on the sport, type of event, and national regulations. This system was designed for contact sports (combat, etc.) and team sports (soccer), but it is also used in the majority of Olympic sports.

They have two interests. One is to limit athletes’ contamination as much as possible, but it is also to facilitate tracking of positive cases and target actions to be taken if necessary. Those who test positive will be quarantined outside the bubble.

At the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, which now has hindsight, athletes had to present the qPCr test. [PCR en temps réel, NdlR] It is negative when you leave your country and when you arrive in Japan. The health bubble then imposed that negative athletes should not leave the Olympic Village except for training or competition.

For what efficiency? Of the 54,250 qPCr tests conducted when arriving in Tokyo during the Olympics, only 55 were positive and the athletes involved were immediately placed in strict quarantine. During the Olympics and Paralympics, more than 1,014,170 tests were conducted, with 299 positive cases (contact cases) or 0.03%.

Even if that wasn’t the case, the foam system worked well. It’s good for athletes’ health … Even if they are in good physical condition, they will not be invincible.

The original version of this article was published in conversation..