The COVID-19 pandemic has radically altered the way we live. For months, it completely shut down the world of sports. Fortunately, sports have started to return one at a time. It’s in those returns we’ve seen a variety of approaches taken by the leagues and individual teams in how they deal with the pandemic and protecting their athletes. The Denver Broncos revealed one of their new methods on social media this week and it raises more questions than answers.
Denver Broncos could look to other teams and their methods
The UFC was the first sport to return to action. Dana White and his organization adopted the bubble approach. Major League Soccer returned next. Same bubble approach. Since those two sports resumed, the NBA and NHL have also restarted and both have used the bubble method.
Since the UFC’s first weekend of fights, all of the sports that have implemented the bubble approach have had a successful track record. How? For starters, the concept is simple. Only a select group of people are allowed inside the bubble. A select group in the cases of these leagues can means hundreds of people including coaches, staff, players, and all other administrative personnel.
What’s made the bubble method successful has been all of the teams and players, to their credit, have adhered to the strict guidelines in place. This includes regular testing, which has returned zero positive results, and an unwavering commitment from those within the bubble to stay inside while avoiding the introduction or interaction with others from outside.
MLB led by bad example
MLB was the first league in the U.S. to take a different approach, similar to what European soccer leagues successfully achieved in their respective restarts. In the case of MLB, it allowed its teams to remain in their home cities and work out in spring training before heading on the road to play regular-season games.
What happened since the league’s start has been a lesson in what not to do. In multiple instances, teams have had to shut down operations and postpone games because of virus outbreaks. The Miami Marlins were the first to be hit, and they were hit hard. More than 20 members of the organization contracted the virus, 18 of them players.
Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said the outbreak was a result of multiple players getting careless with their actions.
“The entire traveling party got a little too comfortable,” Jeter said in an online press conference with reporters. “Guys were around each other, they got relaxed, and they let their guard down. They were getting together in groups. They weren’t wearing masks as much as they should have. They weren’t social distancing.”
Denver Broncos using unproven method to disinfect players
Because of the sheer size of its rosters and team personnel, the NFL has chosen to take the same approach as MLB, where teams will travel from city to city and play in empty stadiums. With all teams currently in training camp, the individual organizations are taking a variety of approaches in protecting their players.
The Denver Broncos unveiled one of their methods in a video posted on Twitter, that shows players walking through a metal detector-like unit that sprays a mist over the players before each day’s practice. It’s described as a way to disinfect players and prevent the virus spread, but medical experts question its effectiveness.
Most experts agree the greatest potential for spread of the coronavirus is airborne, while touching surfaces, such as a teammate’s jersey or helmet, is not a major concern. According to Dr. Choukri Ben Mamoun, professor of medicine and microbial pathogenesis at Yale School of Medicine, using the mist is more mental than physical.
“While walk-through sanitizing booths may give players some peace of mind, the effectiveness of this and other mass disinfection methods against the COVID-19 virus is not yet supported by scientific data,” Mamoun told USA TODAY Sports. “It is clear that if a player is infectious while entering the booth, there is a very good chance that he will still be infectious coming out of the booth and will transmit the virus to other players.”
With sports and teams trying to return to action during these unprecedented times, it’s somewhat understandable the willingness of the participants like the Denver Broncos to try new methods in order to combat an illness that still has no known cure. But it’s curious when teams choose to use methods that go against proven science. And when it comes to a virus, science and facts should be our guide in how we approach it or we unnecessarily risk prolonging its duration and the impact it has on our lives and the lives of others.