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Infographic. COVID-19 RT-PCR testing for elite athletes
  1. Alan Rankin1,2,
  2. Andrew Massey3,
  3. Éanna Cian Falvey4,5,
  4. Todd Ellenbecker6,
  5. Peter Harcourt7,
  6. Andrew Murray8,9,
  7. Denis Kinane10,
  8. Bert Niesters11,
  9. Nigel Jones12,
  10. Rhodri Martin13,14,
  11. Michael Roshon15,
  12. Michael Edmund David McLarnon16,
  13. James Calder17,
  14. Dionisio Izquierdo18,
  15. Babette M Pluim19,20,
  16. Niall Elliott21,
  17. Neil Heron22
  1. 1Sports Medicine, SportNI Sports Institute, Newtownabbey, UK
  2. 2Sports Medicine NI, Belfast, UK
  3. 3Medical and Anti-Doping Department, Federation Internationale de Football Association, Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland
  4. 4Sport Medicine Department, World Rugby, Dublin, Ireland
  5. 5Department of Medicine, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  6. 6ATP Medical Services, Ponte Vedra, Florida, USA
  7. 7Australian Football League, Docklands, Victoria, Australia
  8. 8St Andrew’s House Edinburgh, Scottish Government Sport and Physical Activity Policy Team, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  9. 9Sports Medicine, Scottish Institute of Sport, Stirling, UK
  10. 10Department of Immunology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  11. 11Microbiology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  12. 12Medical Department, British Cycling, Manchester, UK
  13. 13Sports Medicine, Sport Wales, Cardiff, UK
  14. 14Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, Abercynon, Rhondda Cynon Taf, UK
  15. 15Medicine, USA Cycling, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
  16. 16School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  17. 17Trauma and Orthopaedics, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, UK
  18. 18Public Health/SEM, Barts Health NHS Trust, London, UK
  19. 19Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
  20. 20AMC/VUmc IOC Research Center of Excellence, Amsterdam Collaboration on Health & Safety in Sports (ACHSS), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  21. 21Sports Medicine, Sport Scotland Institute of Sport, Stirling, UK
  22. 22Department of Family Practice, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Neil Heron, Department of Family Practice, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK; neilheron{at}

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This infographic outlines evidence-based recommendations on COVID-19 reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) testing in elite sport settings, aiming to protect personal and population health, and acknowledging resources and expertise that are often available in elite sport. Public health recommendations vary by country and region, and protocol decisions should be made in consultation with relevant public health authorities.

Form an expert group

An expert, multidisciplinary group with input from clinical virology, microbiology, public health, infectious diseases and sports medicine provides optimal implementation and interpretation of testing.

Prevention is best

Interventions to prevent COVID-19 transmission should be implemented consistently1 2 and should include

  • Effective hand hygiene.

  • Physical distancing: athletes should minimise discretionary social contacts and maintain a distance of at least one metre from others.

  • Wearing a mask at all times when around others, especially indoors.3

  • Prioritising outdoor over indoor activity where possible.

COVID-19 and RT-PCR testing

The current gold standard of testing is RT-PCR testing.4–6 The test is highly sensitive and specific to SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in laboratory conditions.2 Test results should be interpreted on the basis of the pretest probability, previous test …

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  • Twitter @andy_massey, @docandrewmurray, @mmclarnon98, @DrDionisioizq, @docpluim, @dundeesportsmed, @neilSportDoc

  • Collaborators Science and medical support staff at the UK Home Institutes of Sport and particularly at the Sport Institute of Northern Ireland.

  • Contributors The infographic idea was conceived by AR and NH and then developed by all authors; AR and NH produced the initial infographic, which was then revised by all authors; all authors approved the final version of the infographic.

  • 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 None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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