Professional athletes are more vulnerable to serious Covid-19 symptoms and sports bodies must not put their economic and legal interests over the safety of the players, the World Players’ Association Executive Director, Brendan Schwab said.

The union represents around 85,000 athletes, including many who play in the NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL, rugby, European soccer and Australian Rules football.

Sportspersons playing contact sports will be unable to observe social distancing in matches and the federations must protect their well-being, said the union chief.

Here’s his full statement.

Due to the enormous economic impact of Covid-19, sports are understandably anxious to resume competition as soon as possible, albeit behind closed doors. Extensive measures are being developed aimed at preventing Covid-19 from entering or spreading throughout the sports environment.

These measures, however, do not fully address the potential impact of the disease on individuals who contract it and how symptoms can be treated. Recent research suggests that athletes may be particularly vulnerable (especially to lung and organ damage) which may be very serious and even career-ending. Nor do the measures fully address the risks arising from close physical contact which is an essential part of many professional sports.

Some sports are also seeking to impose medical tests and treatments on players which we do not believe the science yet supports.

At the same time, other sports are seeking to simply pass the legal risk of Covid-19 onto players by having them sign away their legal rights including through waivers.

All proposals need to be calmly and rigorously assessed by relevant experts with a clear commitment that player health and safety is not negotiable.

The World Players Association is determined to ensure that all players – through their unions – have the best possible scientifically supported information so that any decision to return to play is made in a way that (1) addresses the risk of Covid-19 to the maximum extent possible, (2) ensures that players who may contract the disease are fully protected, and (3) the elite health and safety standards that must always apply in the sporting environment are not in any way compromised.

— Brendan Schwab, Executive Director, World Players' Association