Because athletes may bleed following trauma, they represent a theoretical risk to others if they are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus [HIV, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus]. Two questions have concerned coaches, athletic trainers, and school administrators: Should an athlete known to be infected with HIV be allowed to participate in competitive sports, and should the universal precautions recommended for health care workers be used when handling athletes' blood and body fluids?
The risk of infection from skin exposure to the blood of a child or adolescent infected with HIV is unknown, but it is apparently minute and is much less than the risk of HIV infection by needlesticks from infected patients of approximately 1:250. Although it is theoretically possible that transmission of HIV could occur in sports such as wrestling and football in which bleeding and skin abrasions are common, no such transmission has been reported in these sports. There is one report of possible transmission of HIV involving a collision between soccer players. However, this report from Italy remains undocumented.
If an HIV-infected athlete would choose to pursue another sport, this possible risk to others would be avoided; but, in the absence of any proven risk, involuntary restriction of an infected athlete is not justified. Informing others of the athlete's status would probably lead to his or her exclusion due to inappropriate fear and prejudice and therefore should also be avoided. This advice must be reconsidered if transmission of HIV is found to occur in the sports setting.
- Copyright © 1991 by the American Academy of Pediatrics