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UW study indicates Wisconsin school sports don’t increase COVID-19 cases

A study conducted by the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health concluded participation in high school sports in Wisconsin has not led to an increase in COVID-19 infections among high school student-athletes.

The COVID-19 in Wisconsin High School Athletics study conducted by Dr. Andrew Watson and his research team reveals the case and incidence rates of a statewide sampling, which represented 30,000 studentathletes, are actually lower than those reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for those 14-17 years of age.

In addition, the survey found that no sport had a sta- tistically higher incidence rate than that of teenagers during the same period of time. Furthermore, only one case –– or 0.5 percent of the reported cases –– was attributed to transmission during sports activities.

Another finding of the study confirms existing literature regarding the severity of COVID-19 in children. There were no cases reported that resulted in hospitalization or death.

An encouraging and significant aspect of the study’s conclusion highlights the efforts of member schools to follow the prescribed guidelines developed by the WIAA’s Sports Medical Advisory Committee. All schools responding to the study reported having a formal plan in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and most indicated they used a broad range of procedures to reduce risk of exposure and infection.

Along with the study’s findings, the research team acknowledges the risk of COVID-19 will vary in different areas and across age groups. They encourage expanded and replicated research in other populations to greater assess risk of COVID-19 among youth athletes and provide a more complete picture of COVID-19 transmission during sports participation.

Surveys were completed by 207 schools that had restarted sports and held 16,000 practices and 4,000 competitive games in September. There were 271 cases of COVID-19 reported among the 30,074 student-athletes for a case rate of 901 per 100,000 children. That compares to a case rate of 1,035 per 100,000 children among Wisconsin’s 14-17 year-olds as reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Of the 271 cases among student-athletes, the known source for 115 of them was a household contact, while 85 were community contacts and 62 were unknown. Five were from non-sport school contact.