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Which sports are most, least safe during COVID-19 pandemic?

San Antonio doctor weighs in on

SAN ANTONIO – As football and basketball seasons adjust for a global health emergency, doctors are paying close attention to what happens when the games are over.

How, when and why the novel coronavirus spreads in sporting activity is not predictable just yet, but doctors are getting a better idea.

Dr. Tess Barton, an infectious disease specialist at UT Health San Antonio, just returned to her home state of Texas from the front lines of the coronavirus battle in New York. And the difference in philosophy is apparent to her.

“Texans are accepting a much higher level of risk in their behaviors than New Yorkers are, and I think that you can see that in the trends in the numbers,” Barton said.

She said while you can’t predict exactly how and when the bug will spread, it’s pretty clear that the makeup of a typical Texas football game is worth scrutiny.

While tailgating usually involves congregating fans in a small area and alcohol use, she thinks stadium spectating is more high risk.

“I think that that arguably going to the game is more dangerous because you do have a higher concentration of people in a small area close to each other,” Barton said.

Barton is more concerned about basketball, which is played indoors with a shared ball and high contact.

“I would rank basketball a very high-risk activity. Even though it’s fun, I think in it, from the standpoint of safety from virus, it’s probably not very safe. Volleyball is the same,” she said.

How about outdoor sports, where the ball is not shared among competitors?

Barton said that golf is among the safest sports, which allows you to remain distant or play alone without sharing equipment or space.

She added that if you’re thinking about gearing back up to play sports again, know that gyms, while open, really are not recommended spaces for exercise unless you are very disciplined on your disinfection practices.

That’s why outdoor running, biking, swimming and even equestrian sports are considered the safest of all activities for you and your family because they are in the outdoors and can be fun to play alone.


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