UT Health San Antonio expert: 1 in 5 young, healthy athletes risk serious COVID-19 infection

'No guarantee; given as high school football season nears

SAN ANTONIO – With high school football season rapidly approaching, parents and young athletes are being advised about the risk for serious COVID-19 infections among healthy teenagers.

Considered a "small but significant" risk, Dr. Fred Campbell, an associate professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio, said, "There is absolutely no guarantee despite the relatively low risk."

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Campbell said there have been enough cases of otherwise healthy children and adolescents who have died or had serious complications to know that "no one is entirely safe." He said only one in five healthy young people are sick enough to be hospitalized.

Campbell said those with the highest risk are people with compromised immune systems, chronic illness or who are undergoing cancer treatments.

"It's impossible to be certain that a healthy person that's an athlete is not going to get a serious COVID-19 infection," he said.

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Campbell, who played football at Roosevelt High School in the late ’60s, said despite the health and safety protocols issued by the University Interscholastic League, the risk of catching or transmitting the coronavirus on the playing field is “quite high.” He said any social distancing techniques may not be effective enough.

Campbell also said teenagers may not be fully aware of the severity of the disease and how they could potentially infect older loved ones.

When he played tight end and linebacker for Roosevelt, Campbell said, “I think my judgment would not have been nearly as good as it is now.”

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.