Exclusive interview: Professor Doctor Tim Meyer on the medical concept for the Bundesliga restart

Dr. Tim Meyer has been one of the coronavirus task force leaders on behalf of the DFL, helping to ensure that the Bundesliga's return to action in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is as safe as possible.

bundesliga.com spoke to Dr. Meyer exclusively for further elucidation on the Sports Medicine / Special Match Operations Task Force concept

Meyer on the system in place for the return of football

"Our concept here has been made for professional football, and it bases upon three pillars: the first one of this is the monitoring of infectious diseases, of course of COVID-19 diseases. All registered diseases are recorded and followed up during the entire season. The second pillar is rigid hygiene as well as distancing measures at the training site, and in the stadium, and the third pillar is regular and repeated testing. All of these measures are put together to guarantee an as-low-as-possible likelihood of infection transmission on the pitch."

Meyer on measures taken in training

"On the training pitch, there are no specific measures, so training is conducted as usual, except for the drinking bottle that is used separately by one player and should be brought from home if possible. Outside the pitch, we make sure that in the dressing rooms, there is enough distance between players, and in the shower rooms there are only very few persons allowed at a time. In addition to that, disinfectants and soap is provided and players are made to drive to training in their own car, and not in the company of others. So a bundle of measures around the training pitch, but not on the training pitch."

Bayern pair Thomas Müller (l.) and Robert Lewandowski (r.) keeping their distance in training. - imago images / Sven Simon

Meyer on testing players

"Players are generally tested twice a week. A swab is taken from the throat or through the nose, and players have to be tested negative in each of these testings to be allowed to play and to train. Before the onset of team training, we have had two testings and both of them had to be negative for the players to qualify to participate in the start of team training. In addition to this, household members can be tested twice during the season when they are not able to make sure that they stick to strict distancing measures or other measures to ensure that they are not infected from others.

"Players, as well as staff members, are tested twice per week throughout the entire season. When there is a match, players are tested on the day prior to the match, and when they play a week with two matches, then they are tested on both days just before the matches."

Meyer on what happens with a positive test…

"When a player is tested positive on a throat swab, health authorities are notified automatically. This is regulated by law in German, and the local health authorities then decide about the management of that case. Typically, the infected person is put into isolation and then the health authorities start to research which persons were in close contact with this player who has been tested positive. The contact persons are classified into high-risk contacts and lower-risk contacts, and then the final decision about the management of the case is made solely by health authorities."

Meyer on distancing in the stadium…

"In a stadium, players and other spectators are put into three different zones. One zone is solely for the players and staff members. Another zone is mainly for the TV stuff, as well as security personnel, and the third zone is for all the others who have functions around match play. There is a strict separation between these zones to make sure that no-one from one zone can transmit COVID-19 disease to the other zone."

Meyer on team travel…

"For travelling, players and teams are advised to take care that there is sufficient distance between players and staff members, to make sure that no infect transmission can happen. This is important because in the case of a positive throat swab, the health authorities have to analyse the time before this positive test happened, and they have a look at each situation when players were together with each other, or with staff members. And if distancing is possible, then the contact is not classified as critical, whereas if players are too close to each other or are not able to maintain other measures of protection, then there is a risk of being classified as a high-risk contact."

Meyer on teams entering the stadium…

"When the players enter the stadium, they had been checked before by their team doctor, if they have suspicious symptoms for COVID-19 disease. This is made prior to the arrival in the stadium to make sure that not a single player that has suspicious systems is allowed to enter the stadium. During the march into the stadium and through the dressing rooms, we take care that there is sufficient distance between them and other people who have functions during the match. The dressing rooms are chosen large enough to enable them keeping distance of at least 1.5-2m. Also, when entering or walking to the pitch for the first time, the other is held back to make sure that even in the tunnel from the dressing rooms to the pitch, distancing is possible and no infectious transmission can occur."

Meyer on journalists in the stadium…

"The numbers of journalists in the stadiums is clearly reduced. Also for interviews between journalists and players, or coaches, there is taken care that the distance between them is large enough, or alternatively, plexiglass is used between them to make sure that there is no transmission of disease from the journalist to the player or the other way round."

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