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Original Contribution
April 15, 1983

Aseptic Meningitis and High School Football Players: 1978 and 1980

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Viral Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases (Drs Moore, Rowley, Schonberger, and Hatch), and the Epidemiology Program Office (Drs Baron, Filstein, and Lofgren), Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta. Dr Moore is now with the International Health Program Office, Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta.

JAMA. 1983;249(15):2039-2042. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330390043029

During 1978 and 1980, epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control investigated seven outbreaks of aseptic meningitis—like illness (AMLI) occurring in high school football players in four different states. One or more enterovirus types were isolated from affected students at all seven schools. Attack rates were highest among the varsity football teams (range, 21% to 68%), although junior varsity teams were also affected at most schools (range, 5% to 63%). Non—football athletes were relatively spared. The illness was also reported by nonathletes at all three schools where more extensive investigations were undertaken. At one school, the AMLI attack rate was higher among students who were close friends of football players than among students who were not close friends; at the other two schools, these rates were similar. Hospitalization was more likely for football players with AMLI than for affected nonfootball players. Transmission of enteroviruses among football players was probably from person to person, although there was additional evidence to implicate common vehicle transmission at two schools. We conclude that football players may or may not have been more likely to be exposed to the enteroviruses circulating in their communities, but once introduction of a virus into a team occurred, transmission potential may have been enhanced, resulting in a large number of AMLI cases in players.

(JAMA 1983;249:2039-2042)