A study involving over 120 youth soccer clubs from 30+ states, (more than 90,000 athletes) in various stages of training and competition throughout the country. was conducted by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Drew Watson, a physician at the university stated the following based on the data collected amid the COVID-19 pandemic:
“Our goal was to try to provide some early information that would contribute to the ongoing discussions around the country about if, when, and how to reinitiate youth sports. This nationwide data collection is the first effort we are aware of that attempts to measure the disease burden in youth soccer. In the near future we are hoping to replicate this among other youth sports so that we can continue to develop sport-specific evidence to aid with local decision-making.”
The University of Wisconsin also reported findings from a 50 state survey of young athletes that demonstrated the impact of school and sport cancelations, where around 40% of youth athletes reported symptoms of depression and another 37% reported symptoms of anxiety.
This data collected in the COVID-19 in Youth Soccer study support the need for data-collected decision making and are adding a lot more input on the known numbers of COVID-19 among youth soccer players.
- Data was collected from 124 ECNL clubs representing more than 90,000 players who have have been involved in more than 45,000 training sessions and close to 6,000 official games all of this 10 weeks prior to the survey took place.
- 70+ clubs (more than half) had progressed to soccer participation that involved contact / unrestricted play in training or competition.
- 100% of the clubs reported they have a COVID-19 plan in place to reduce risk of contact.
- A total of 325 positive cases were reported, including 282 positive cases in players, and 43 positive cases in coaches or other club staff members.
- No cases were ended up in hospitalization and no deaths are reported.
The 282 reported positive cases in youth players represents a rate of 310 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 children. In comparison, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, during the 10 weeks prior to the survey (6/18/2020 through 8/27/2020) the nationwide case rate among children in the United States was 477 cases per 100,000 children.
The ECNL in cooperation with Dr. Watson has published material to support youth soccer clubs, coaches and organizations as they evaluate the best paths to take for their players to returning to youth soccer. The data and suggestions included specific Return to Play Recommendations, and info to support more informed decision-making regarding youth sports in general and the impact that inactivity can cause.
Here is the Summary of the COVID-19 in Youth Soccer study conducted by Dr. Watson: https://ortho.wisc.edu/research/labs/watson/