Scientists say the focus should be on 'promoting other infection control', such as how players interact while playing sport
Sports gear – including golf equipment – presents a “lower than once thought” risk of transmitting the coronavirus, a study has shown.
Research led by scientists from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine involved applying live virus particles to various equipment, including a golf ball, before being tested after one minute, five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 90 minutes to see if the virus could then be transferred off each item.
When a low dose of the virus was applied, traces were recovered on seven of the 10 items after one minute, one of the 10 items after five minutes, and none after 15 minutes.
On a high dose, traces were recovered on nine of the 10 items after one and five minutes, six of the 10 after 30 minutes, and two of the 10 after 90 minutes.
The results confirmed the “mean recovery of virus [fell] to 0.74% at one minute, 0.39% at 15 minutes, and 0.003% at 90 minutes”.
James Calder, of Imperial College London, told the BBC that the findings in the study “are important not only for elite athletes, but also for community sports and our schools”.
He added: “It shows that the risk of transmission when sharing sports equipment is lower than was once thought and it highlights the importance of promoting other infection control measures in sports.”
The study concludes that there is a demonstrable “rapid decay” in transmissible virus on a variety of sports equipment and that focus should be more on “how players interact before a game, during a game, after a game, and in transport rather than the sports equipment itself”.
It adds: “It is likely close contact with other players – either during play or pre- or post-match travel and socialising – that is more important as a mode of spreading the virus.
“This has implications for policymakers introducing control measures during the reopening of sports.”
This has already been demonstrated in golf, with strict rules in place regarding social distancing, use of the putting green, and the handling of flagsticks among others.
You can read the full study here.