Should Professional Athletes be More Worried about Coronavirus or Lightning?

by | Jul 5, 2020


Znamya Truda, a Russian professional soccer team, has announced that Ivan Zaborovsky, a goalkeeper for the team, went to intensive care after being struck by lightning during training.

People being seriously harmed or killed by lightning strikes is rare. In America, the United States government’s National Weather Service relays that, in the ten years of 2009 through 2018, there were an average of 27 deaths and 243 estimated injuries each year from lightning countrywide. While the risk of an individual being struck by lightning is real, it is also quite small. The National Weather Service lays out the likelihood as follows: a one in 1,222,000 chance of being struck by lightning in a given year and a one in 15,300 chance of being struck in one’s lifetime.

A professional athlete like Zaborovsky being injured by lightning is a very unusual occurrence. In contrast, we hear regularly of professional athletes from just about every sport testing positive for coronavirus. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), for example, 25 players, about seven percent of NBA players, have tested positive for coronavirus in testing of players in the last couple weeks. Plenty of athletes in other professional sports leagues have also tested positive. Other professional sports players surely have had coronavirus but were never tested because they had no to minor health issues at the time.

Where are the many intensive care hospitalizations and deaths among these athletes who have had coronavirus? We are not hearing about that. This makes sense given that coronavirus tends not to be a major threat to people the more healthy and young they are. For many top athletes in their 20s and 30s it may make more sense to be worried about being struck by lightning than about having coronavirus. And, for competitors in outdoor sports, the threat from lightning can be well above that experienced by the average person. Many professional athletes, weighing the risks, may find it is a better decision to stay inside on occasion because of a thunderstorm than to avoid practicing and competing in their sports for an extended period because of worry about coronavirus.

It could be a drag for professional sports players to stay indoors now and then for a few minutes to a few hours to ensure they are not struck by lightning. Many of them may find doing so to be excessively cautious, especially if it prevents them from doing something they see as particularly important or desirable. In comparison, players may see eliminating their ability to compete for a significant chunk of their prime athletic years — to refrain from using and developing the skills they have dedicated their lives to mastering — as a tragedy, especially when that restriction is imposed due to a disease that is nearly certain not to threaten them with major negative health consequences.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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