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Team sport in a COVID-19 world. A catastrophe in waiting, or an opportunity for community sport to evolve and further enhance population health?
  1. Steffan A Griffin1,2,
  2. Amy Mendham3,4,
  3. Peter Krustrup5,
  4. Andrew Murray6,7,
  5. Nicholas Peirce8,9,
  6. Jo Larkin10,
  7. Rod Jaques11,
  8. Charlotte M Cowie12,
  9. Keith A Stokes1,13,
  10. Simon PT Kemp1,14
  1. 1 Medical Services, Rugby Football Union, London, UK
  2. 2 Moray House School of Education and Sport, The University of Edinburgh Moray House School of Education, Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3 Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  4. 4 MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand Faculty of Health Sciences, Johannesburg, South Africa
  5. 5 Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
  6. 6 St Andrew’s House Edinburgh, R and A Group Services, St Andrews, UK
  7. 7 Sports Medicine, Edinburgh Napier University School of Life, Sport and Social Sciences, Edinburgh, UK
  8. 8 Centre for Sports Medicine, Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, Nottingham, UK
  9. 9 England and Wales Cricket Board, National Cricket Performance Centre and National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, Loughborough, UK
  10. 10 Medical Department, LTA, London, UK
  11. 11 English Institute of Sport, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  12. 12 Football Association, National Football Centre, Burton upon Trent, UK
  13. 13 Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  14. 14 Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Steffan A Griffin, Medical Services, Rugby Football Union, Twickenham, London TW2 7BA, UK; steffangriffin{at}

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While sporting governing bodies prepare guidelines and policies to comply with social distancing requirements and governmental guidelines, and some may feel that such changes threaten the very existence of their sport, is there a hidden opportunity to be found among the noise?

A worrying trend?

Elite team sports generate significant financial wealth and widespread media attention, but grass-roots participation rates in many traditional team sports have been decreasing, especially over the last 5 years.1 2 This contrasts with some data suggesting that physical activity levels actually may be increasing overall across the general population, especially among women and older people.1 This begs the question, are sports losing touch with the general population, and are people turning to non-traditional sports and individual activities for leisure-time physical activity?

First of all, why might people be turning away from traditional team sports? We know that some of the most frequently cited barriers to participating in sporting activities include: not feeling fit enough to participate; lack of time; poor accessibility; cost and fear of injury.3 4 However, as opposed to consigning these important findings to the pages of medical journals, could sports embrace these barriers as challenges to enhance participation, and secure their futures?

Positively, there are ‘bright-spots’ around the world, where these challenges have …

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  • Twitter @SteffanGriffin, @docandrewmurray, @peirce@123, @drccowie, @drsimonkemp

  • Contributors SAG proposed the concept and wrote the first draft. SK, KAS, AmM, PK and AnM contributed to the first draft, and the others to subsequent drafts of the manuscript. All agreed on final content before submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests SAG is undertaking a PhD looking into Rugby Union, and Health and Wellbeing at the University of Edinburgh. He also works for the RFU as a Sports Medicine training fellow, and receives financial remuneration for work in professional sport. PK receives financial remuneration for work in professional football, and is a professor of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Southern Denmark. AMu is the chief medical officer for the European Tour, and receives financial remuneration for work in professional sport. NP is the chief medical officer for the England and Wales Cricket Board. JL is the chief medical officer for the Lawn Tennis Association, and receives financial remuneration for work in professional sport. RJ is the director of medical services for the English Institute of Sport. CMC is the Head of Medicine for the Football Association. KAS and SK are both employed by the Rugby Football Union.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.