The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the rare global events that manages to disrupt every sector of society.  Whether it’s business, art, commerce, travel–name the category it has been affected and changed by Covid-19.  This is no different in the world of sports.  Fascinatingly many countries have pushed extremely hard to find ways to sustain professional sports amidst lockdowns and fear.  Domestic High schools and Colleges also struggled to find ways to maintain athletic programs for student-athletes.  While athletics have provided some comfort, normalcy, and distraction in the present climate, there are still many concerns to be had on the impacts of Covid-19 on professional athletes and professional sports.

The most significant contention point for some sports is whether or not the protocols introduced in the pandemic will become permanent introductions into the structure of the sport.  While an NBA bubble or a Football season of social isolation might be sustainable for a few months, it’s probably not a long-term change with which to be concerned.  But other sports like Nascar have more consequential questions to ask.  Nascar might potentially completely shift some of its traditional racing practices.  The biggest adjustment Nascar has made centered around removing practice attempts or qualifying laps.  This brand of racing, known as “1-day shows”, has at least one notable driver believing it will be a permanent fixture for some events in the future.  

Traditionally the process of a race in Nascar was a three-day event. The racing giant is trying to think of ways to sustain such an incredible amount of entertainment within a shorter period.  A few have bandied about the idea of cramming all three day’s worth of events into two, or even one day.  Teams are undoubtedly concerned about what a lack of practice will mean for them.  When given time to work out kinks before a race, teams usually catch a glaring flaw or issue.  Being left with no practice time this year has led to some amateurish mistakes.    Rookie drivers are probably the most concerned presently, who are less likely to be allowed to show what they can do behind the wheel without practice or trials.

Outside how Covid-19 has impacted the structure of sports, there is also little known about the impact Covid-19 might have on athletes.  The novel Coronavirus seems to affect different people very differently, with some people being asymptomatic and others experiencing symptoms and aftereffects for prolonged stretches of time.  Luckily there is mounting evidence to suggest that the long-term effects of covid on athletes may be minimal or non-existent to most athletes.  As more professional athletes around the globe test positive, whether in the NFL, the NPB, the Premier League–all sports at this point have athletes who have tested positive and returned to the field feeling the virus has had little impact on their game.  If there is a concern, it’s centered around long term endurance.  Once over the initial respiratory effects, some young people have reported experiencing a difficult time with physical activity for some time after the infection.

As with so many other cultural pillars, the long term impacts of Covid-19 on professional sports is still murky, and the tertiary consequences could be difficult to project and far-reaching.  One potential scenario, salary caps across sports with a salary cap might take a dip because of a drop off in arena attendance revenue.  The impact of smaller salaries or what a cap dip for cash strapped organizations might mean is near impossible to predict.  What is evident, though, is that Covid-19 has changed how sports operate, potentially irrevocably.