In recent days, several coronavirus outbreaks among teams and athletes have demonstrated the enormous challenge ahead for sports leagues attempting to return to action.
While non-contact individual sports like NASCAR and golf have been able to resume, many other sports are struggling to formalize plans to return to play. Other than the NFL, which is in its offseason, only one of the five other major sports leagues have a firm return date.
Professional soccer’s MLS is slated to resume on July 8 with a tournament being played in Orlando. For professional baseball, hockey and basketball, a resumption of play is still up in the air. The NBA said it plans to resume play in Orlando at some point later in the summer. The NHL is determining two host cities to conduct an expanded postseason. MLB said late Monday that it will require players to accept health and safety protocols before resuming play.
But the road to resuming play could contain land mines. Here are a few examples:
- The Orlando Pride women’s soccer team, which recently resumed training camp, announced it will not participate in an upcoming tournament after six players tested positive for the coronavirus.
- The Basketball Tournament, which is a summer basketball tournament featuring former college and international stars, announced Monday one of its teams withdrew from next month’s next competition after a player tested positive for the virus.
- Tennis stars Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric both tested positive for the coronavirus after participating in a charity tennis tournament organized by Novak Djokovic. The Adria Tour canceled its final match in Croatia on Sunday after Dimitrov’s diagnosis. Djokovic and the tournament as a whole have come under fire for flouting social distancing norms.
- A number of college football teams have reported outbreaks. Clemson had 23 players test positive, and Kansas State said it had 13 positive tests for the virus. College football teams began allowing voluntary workouts on campus earlier this month.
Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci placed skepticism on whether the NFL season would even be played.
"Unless players are essentially in a bubble -- insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day -- it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall," Dr. Fauci told CNN. "If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year."
Leagues such as the NFL have said they are putting together plans which are heavily reliant on frequent testing of players and staff. Plans also rely on limiting the number of people who interact with team personnel at games and practices.
But relying on frequent testing in lieu of social distancing also has its drawbacks, which include a large number of false negatives.