The details of the protocol presented by FIFA for the resumption of football worldwide

(REUTERS / Arnd Wiegmann / File Photo)
(REUTERS / Arnd Wiegmann / File Photo)

On April 16, 2020, a working group was established at FIFA to develop a base protocol for the resumption of soccer worldwide in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The entity invited epidemiology specialists and scientists from each of the six confederations to offer a contribution on risk assessment.

Here, the conclusions, in order to achieve international and intersectoral collaboration between governments and authorities to generate the resources and systems necessary to carry out tests, where necessary, together with effective prevention strategies.

-Track: monitor all positive cases of COVID-19 and keep track of all contacts to detect and avoid contagion.

-Treat: manage all cases efficiently, with sufficient capacity of the health system, respirators and personnel.

The “only” consensus is for when the countries or regions have taken control of the transmission of the virus, and only then, will it be appropriate to start practicing team sports, at a professional and amateur level.

It is the responsibility of local authorities and governments to assess the risks of the situation, as well as establish mitigation policies and substantial modifications to minimize the risks of those who participate in soccer.

Return to normality after a period of restrictions

You cannot play soccer while the stricter measures of the pandemic are applied (that is, during confinement).

The following can be expected:

• Regions / federations with a reduced number of cases will be able to relax the restrictions in a phased and strategic way.

• Physical distancing and increased hygiene measures will continue to apply in the long term.

• Risk assessments and mitigation procedures will be established in advance, which will be updated periodically and activated when appropriate, following the advice of FIFA and WHO.

Measures to facilitate the resumption of soccer practice

At this stage, it is essential to emphasize the indications to prevent the spread or re-emergence of the disease:

1. Hygiene and distance (both in training and in competition, including training facilities and stadiums):

• Keep informed of valid guidelines at all times from local and national authorities, WHO and football governing bodies as the coronavirus situation develops. These include public health recommendations and guidelines to control and prevent the spread of the virus.

• Respect the distance between people: at least 1 meter.

• Urge to maintain good hygiene;

• wash your hands well; use hand sanitizer;

• avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose;

• coughing or sneezing into a handkerchief or hollow elbow, covering the mouth and nose;

• throw the tissues in a sealed container;

• disinfect sports equipment regularly, as well as areas where more people pass;

• avoid sharing sports equipment such as water bottles;

• have strategies to limit contact / interaction. For example, in a building, establish one-way roads and keep doors open.

• avoid shaking hands, hitting all five and any other physical contact.

• Plan football activities to include people with specific health needs. Prevent such people from continuing vigorous exercise unless medical professionals indicate that it is safe.

• Sleep and eat properly.

2. Perform test and follow-up when necessary:

• Follow the participants closely to warn typical symptoms of the flu, isolate those affected and immediately contact the doctor in case of detecting respiratory conditions.

• Implement recommended protective measures, including daily medical check-ups (from screening for respiratory symptoms or fever to COVID-19 laboratory testing).

• Carry out specific tests of the respiratory, cardiac and musculoskeletal systems, as indicated by health professionals, depending on availability, exposure to the virus, economic capacity and the level of competition.

• Carry out tests on soccer participants, according to the availability and reliability of the tests. It is important that evidence is not obtained and used by depriving the national and local public health of it. The tests will only be used after scientific validation, according to local availability and according to the instructions of the health authorities, together with the correct training and understanding of the operation of the tests and the meaning of the results.

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• A proposed procedure for checking the COVID-19 would be the following:

Perform the COVID-19 test on all footballers returning to professional football to protect and strengthen confidence and mental health within and around the team.

to. The first test will be carried out 72 hours before resuming football activity to avoid false negatives (asymptomatic people carrying the virus).

b. The second test will be carried out before the first training session.

c. Afterwards, soccer participants will be tested, either at home or in the places indicated in the clubs by the doctors, following the hygiene guidelines and the recommended protection measures. There is the option to test without leaving the vehicle itself. d. Those soccer participants who test positive will not be able to carry out any soccer activity and must follow the recommendations of the health authorities of the host country.

and. Only those who test negative will be able to participate in football activities.

The greeting on goals in times of coronavirus. Here in the Bundesliga, the first major league to resume business (Lars Baron / Pool via REUTERS)
The greeting on goals in times of coronavirus. Here in the Bundesliga, the first major league to resume business (Lars Baron / Pool via REUTERS)

3. Precautions in travel and facilities (including stays in hotels and at home):

• Disinfect the means of transportation used to attend games or training.

• Disinfect the place of accommodation, the places where meals are prepared and the distribution channels.

• Work with minimal staff to reduce the risk of contagion.

• Apply and maintain physical distance measures.

Risk assessment of football events

Mass concentrations, in general, contribute to increasing the risk of coronavirus transmission.

When assessing risk, the following key factors need to be considered:

• national and specific regulations for sport;

• evidence of the spread of COVID-19 between society, locally and nationally;

• travel requirements from areas where COVID-19 is present;

• the scope of the event (which could be reduced by holding competitions behind closed doors);

• the presence of risk groups (over 65 years, people with previous pathologies);

• the medical and sanitary infrastructure available in the places where the mass concentrations will take place;

• travel restrictions and advice regarding where the participants will be traveling.

Health, fitness and injury of footballers courses:

Until now, the effects of athletes spending a period without training and in isolation have been hardly investigated.

Special attention should be paid to the following factors:

• in the event that the footballer has contracted COVID-19, observe possible consequences;

• the length of the period of confinement and lack of training;

• the level of physical activity carried out by the footballer during the period without training;

• the expected duration of the recovery period from physical condition / return to the field of play.

Therefore, taking into account the above, it is extremely important that the necessary time is allocated for the resumption of soccer practice.

FIFA is fully committed to assisting member federations and soccer stakeholders around the world with regard to medical considerations for participation in soccer at this very particular time.

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