When it comes to public health decisions should generally be weighted towards a basis of evidence rather than instinct.
Newry based Statsports has given the GAA evidence that a return to full-contact games may actually be closer in a world of social distancing than has been feared.
Using GPS data drawn from four inter-county games and five training sessions they have calculated that the average contact time when players are within 2 metres of fellow players is only 2.5 seconds and that such contacts will occur on average 539 times over the course of a game.
Those numbers are significantly lower than in a similar exercise conducted by the same company around the English Premier League.
In football, the contact time averaged at 3.3 seconds the number of incursions over the course of a game was also higher.
The findings are expected to be discussed at the latest meeting of the GAA’s COVID-19 task force and will give hope of a return to action sooner than had been feared, albeit not immediately.
The figures show that the contact time is longer in training sessions but that these could be adapted to reduce that until such time as a return to full normality is possible.
It is rich data and shows that the longest continuous time one player spent within two metres of another was less than a minute and that the total time players spent in that ‘zone’ with any other player was just under 25 per cent of their time on the pitch.
Taken alongside the understanding that all games are taking place outdoors and that fifteen minutes is the supposed danger time for transmission, there is significant comfort that can be taken from the numbers.
Allied to changes in the way that pre and post-match behaviour is conducted and adapted training setups, the data could be a major factor in getting us back onto pitches sooner rather than later.
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