Transmission risk of COVID-19 in high school and college water polo

Raymond J. Kreienkamp, Christopher J. Kreienkamp, Cindy Terrill, Mark E. Halstead, Jason G. Newland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Concerns that athletes may be at a higher risk for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission has led to reduced participation in sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. We aimed to assess COVID-19 incidence and transmission during the spring 2021 high school and college water polo seasons across the United States. Methods: This prospective observational study enrolled 1825 water polo athletes from 54 high schools and 36 colleges. Surveys were sent to coaches throughout the season, and survey data were collected and analyzed. Results: We identified 17 COVID-19 cases among 1223 high school water polo athletes (1.4%) and 66 cases among 602 college athletes (11.0%). Of these cases, contact tracing suggested that three were water polo–associated in high school, and none were water polo–associated in college. Quarantine data suggest low transmission during water polo play as only three out of 232 (1.3%) high school athletes quarantined for a water polo–related exposure developed COVID-19. In college, none of the 54 athletes quarantined for exposure with an infected opponent contracted COVID-19. However, in both high school and college, despite the physical condition of water polo athletes, both high school (47%) and college athletes (21%) had prolonged return to play after contracting COVID-19, indicating the danger of COVID-19, even to athletes. Conclusions: While COVID-19 spread can occur during water polo play, few instances of spread occurred during the spring 2021 season, and transmission rates appear similar to those in other settings, such as school environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number450
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • COVID-19
  • NCAA
  • NFHS
  • Transmission
  • Water polo


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