The state of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Association have collected some important data on the incidences of COVID-19 and the procedures being used by high schools to combat the spread of the virus.
Michigan high school coach Jason Mensing shared a copy of the study in a tweet heading into last weekend.
The surveys were completed by 207 Wisconsin schools that had restarted sports and includes data from over 30,000 athletes participating in over 16,000 practices and 4,000 games in the month of September.
In the study, schools were also asked to report the source of the transmission of any positive cases among players. Two known sources made up nearly 96% of the transmissions - Household contacts (55%) and Community Contact (40.7%). Sport contact made up just .5% of transmissions, lining up with what medical experts has also found at the NCAA level.
In football specifically here were some of the relevant numbers:
The study ends with this three paragraph conclusion:
These findings suggest that participation in sports is not associated with an increased risk of COVID-19 among Wisconsin high school student-athletes. The total case rate and incidence rate reported by this statewide sample representing over 30,000 student-athletes are lower than those reported by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for 14-17 year olds during the same time period. In fact, no specific sport had a statistically higher incidence rate than the background incidence among adolescents across the state during the same time period. Furthermore, while the number of schools utilizing virtual instruction was small, we identified no difference in COVID-19 incidence between student athletes from schools with in-person versus virtual instruction.
In addition, these findings agree with the existing literature regarding COVID-19 severity in children, as none of the cases were reported to result in hospitalization or death. Although 30% of the reported cases did not have an identified source, only 1 (<0.5%) of the cases with a reported source was attributed to transmission during sports activities. Finally, all of the respondent high schools reported having a formal COVID-19 plan in place, and the majority reported utilizing a broad range of risk mitigation procedures.
While we hope that this information will help contribute to the ongoing discussions about the relative risks and benefits of youth sport participation, we should recognize that COVID-19 risk will vary in different areas of the country and across age groups. Therefore, efforts to assess COVID-19 risk among youth athletes should be expanded and replicated in other populations in order to provide a more complete picture of the risk of COVID-19 transmission during sport participation.
The results of the research done in Wisconsin certainly back up the notion that high school sports and the structure that it provides can help us mitigate the spread of COVID in high school aged kids, and the data concerning in-school vs. virtual learning and COVID spread is valuable as well.
Stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.