Players at home
Aggressive preventive actions promoted by governments were required to face the Covid-19 outbreak. However, from March 2020 on, many healthy youth football players have seen their sporting activities disrupted by the restrictions on outdoor exercise. This study described physical activity and quality of life during lockdown (April 2020) of young people who played organized football in Italy according to sex, environmental features, age and competitive level. 1163 young football players aged 12-17 years (185 girls) completed a web-based questionnaire that included the Youth Physical Activity and the Youth Quality of Life (Short Form) Questionnaires; information on lifestyle and football-specific activity were also collected. We found that: (i) on average, exposure to football practice reduced to 3.2 hours/week, was higher in elite clubs and changed in nature, being mainly performed individually; 19% of participants practiced football less than 1 hour/week; (ii) only 56% of the participants reported 7 or more hours/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, which decreased with age and changed according to the geographical context; (iii) perceived quality of life was lower in youth playing for non-elite clubs and decreased with age in girls; (iv) coaches, rather that official initiatives, were the primary source of football exercises practiced at home. These findings depict a status of general deconditioning and susceptibility to injuries that should be considered when football could restart. Governing bodies, football Associations and clubs could exploit these results to take informed decisions and support evidence-based interventions during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.