PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY FIVETHIRTYEIGHT / GETTY IMAGES American sports leagues are just now coming out of their coronavirus hibernation, with some already started and some finalizing their schedules for play. They’re ramping up testing of their players, so every day, it seems like there’s another announcement of a team full of athletes afflicted by the coronavirus. Players (and staff) across MLB , the NBA and college athletics have tested positive. The Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League had to pull out of the Challenge Cup tournament after several positive tests. And golfers have withdrawn from PGA Tour events two weeks in a row after testing positive — and that’s not even counting caddies .
We wanted to understand these headlines better, so we brought together two science journalists and two sports journalists to see if we could figure out what this all means for the safety of the athletes and the reality of the leagues’ returns. Maggie Koerth and Kaleigh Rogers have been covering the science and politics of the novel coronavirus since the earliest days of the pandemic, while Neil Paine has been examining its effects on the world of sports .
So let’s dig in. Should we be surprised that athletes have been struck with the virus, given what we know about the prevalence of cases in the general, nonathlete population?
maggie ( Maggie Koerth , senior science writer): I don’t think it’s surprising that a bunch of people who share a locker room and run around breathing heavily on each other might contract a virus from one another.
kaleigh ( Kaleigh Rogers , science and politics […]