AFL games could be cancelled for eight weeks, says medico

AFL games are likely to be cancelled for four to eight weeks when coronavirus forces more serious shutdowns in the community, sports medico Dr Peter Brukner said.

The veteran sports doctor said it was not unreasonable for the AFL to go either way with the vexing decision about whether to commence the season this week.

Dr Peter Brukner is consulting with Melbourne this season.Credit:Daniel Munoz

He admitted there were strong and reasonable arguments for both delaying this opening round and for playing it and playing football for as long as possible before the likely and seemingly inevitable forced shutdown of the league.

“Clearly at some stage in the near future we will have to cease all gatherings beyond a very small number of people and that will mean sport will have to stop, and that’s likely to last four to eight weeks,” said Brukner.

“It depends on how effective we are at slowing down the curve (of infection). We can either be Singapore or Italy.”

Brukner is involved consulting with Melbourne Football Club this year after working with a range of AFL sides and in the EPL and with the Australian cricket team.

“I don’t have a strong view on whether they should postpone the opening rounds or not, there are reasonable arguments for both positions. It’s a tough one,” Brukner said.

“It’s going to stop for an extended period and that is going to have an enormous impact on people's lives, so I understand the argument of playing games now before that happens.”

He said the idea that the game would shut down due to a positive test by a player or official for the coronavirus was almost redundant as only the extremely sick would now be tested in Melbourne.

Unlike as recently as last week, when several players including Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury suffered flu-like symptoms and underwent isolation and testing, the tests were now so sparingly used that people presenting with coughs and fevers would be sent to isolate but not tested.

He said the game itself offered a smaller risk of passing on the virus to another player than proximity in the change rooms and airports.

“There is probably not any danger in the actual game. It seems more like contact with surfaces is where you pick it up rather than droplets from another person, so if someone carries the virus into the game the chances of transmission in the game is low.

“Other people are working, kids are at schools, is there a greater risk of transmission from two teams in an empty stadium? Probably not.

“They are not prohibited from playing. The NRL is going ahead, the A-League is going ahead. I suspect they will go ahead.”

He said the social impact of playing when people are feeling stressed and socially isolated should not be underestimated.

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