Can tracking data help in assessing interpersonal contact exposure in team sports during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Bruno Gonçalves, Romeu Mendes, Hugo Folgado, Pedro Figueiredo, Bruno Travassos, Henrique Barros, Adalberto Campos-Fernandes, Paulo Beckert, João Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


During the COVID-19 pandemic, the temporary closure of physical activity and sports facilities, and the generalized cancellation or postponement of sports events have a massive impact on social and economic development. In this study, we explored the feasibility of using tracking data from a football match to assess interpersonal contact between individuals by calculating two measures of respiratory exposure. The dynamic tracking positioning of all players and referees during one international football match was analyzed. For each individual, two measures of respiratory exposure were calculated, based on the 2 m interpersonal distance recommendations for contact tracing for COVID-19 control. Overall, individuals spent a median of 0.12 mm/ss (IQR = 0.45 mm/ss) exposed to interpersonal contact of fewer than 2 m from others. The highest value of exposure was observed between two players of opposing teams (6.35 mm/ss). The results suggest that tracking data can be used to assess respiratory exposure to interpersonal contact in team sports, such as football. The measures of exposure calculated can be used to the prompt identification of high-risk contacts of COVID-19 cases during a match or a training session, but also the risk stratification of different sports and physical activities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6163
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Football
  • Pandemic
  • Physical distance
  • Positional data
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tracking systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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