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Coronavirus anxiety 'rivals HIV' among sporting groups

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The COVID-19 crisis is creating anxiety about health risks in sport, from the elite level to community competitions,  that rivals fears over HIV, a leading sport researcher has warned.

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Chair of the Sport and Gender Equity research hub at Griffith University, Professor Simone Fullagar, said sport at all levels would need to work to minimise health risks as competitions recommenced, but also combat the social impact of stigmatising groups of people.

“People are not rational subjects. We all have emotions and sport brings out intense emotions,” Fullagar told InQueensland.

“Sport at all levels needs to work out how to manage people’s wellbeing and learn from previous epidemics such as HIV so people aren’t stigmatised or discriminated against.

“A lot of the barriers to sport are to do with discrimination.”

Fullagar said a host of issues including racism, whether a person chose to be vaccinated or not, or even if someone was unwell or coughing while playing sport could see them accused of carrying coronavirus.

People who had suffered from the virus could also be reluctant to return to sport, making the social and mental health impacts of the pandemic necessary to the recovery plans for all sports at all levels, she said.

“We don’t really know yet how people are going to be treated who have had the virus and are trying to re-enter society.

“People may be reluctant to say they’ve had the virus and fear being stigmatised because of it.”

Asian Australians had already been the target of racism in relation to the origins of COVID-19, and that discrimination may be intensified on the sports field.

“People may be fearful of even going out in public because of harassment or prejudice. We have to think about how to make people feel safe and welcome because sport doesn’t always automatically offer that.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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