Article Text

Download PDFPDF
SARS-CoV-2 transmission during rugby league matches: do players become infected after participating with SARS-CoV-2 positive players?


Objectives To examine the interactions between SARS-CoV-2 positive players and other players during rugby league matches and determine within-match SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk.

Methods Four Super League matches in which SARS-CoV-2 positive players were subsequently found to have participated were analysed. Players were identified as increased-risk contacts, and player interactions and proximities were analysed by video footage and global positioning system (GPS) data. The primary outcome was new positive cases of SARS-CoV-2 within 14 days of the match in increased-risk contacts and other players participating in the matches.

Results Out of 136 total players, there were 8 SARS-CoV-2 positive players, 28 players identified as increased-risk contacts and 100 other players in the matches. Increased-risk contacts and other players were involved in 11.4±9.0 (maximum 32) and 4.0±5.2 (maximum 23) tackles, respectively. From GPS data, increased-risk contacts and other players were within 2 m of SARS-CoV-2 positive players on 10.4±18.0 (maximum 88) and 12.5±20.7 (maximum 121) occasions, totalling 65.7±137.7 (maximum 689) and 89.5±169.4 (maximum 1003) s, respectively. Within 14 days of the match, one increased-risk contact and five players returned positive SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) tests, and 27 increased-risk contacts and 95 other participants returned negative SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR tests. Positive cases were most likely traced to social interactions, car sharing and wider community transmission and not linked to in-match transmission.

Conclusion Despite tackle involvements and close proximity interactions with SARS-CoV-2 positive players, in-match SARS-CoV-2 transmission was not confirmed. While larger datasets are needed, these findings suggest rugby presents a lower risk of viral transmission than previously predicted.

  • COVID-19
  • sport
  • infection
  • virus
  • community

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All data are presented in the manuscript.

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.