CLAIM: Fifteen tennis players dropped out of the 2022 Miami Open due to COVID-19 vaccine-related complications.
THE FACTS: None of the athletes who withdrew or retired during the tournament did so because of COVID-19 vaccine side effects, according to the official causes listed by the Association of Tennis Professionals, Women’s Tennis Association, and published by the tournament organizer. Social media users shared baseless claims that the high number of withdrawals and retirements were caused by the vaccines following news that two top players, Jannik Sinner, from Italy, and Paula Badosa, of Spain, had to retire from the final rounds of the tournament this month.
In tennis, a “retirement” is when an athlete has to pull out during a competition because of an injury, illness or personal reason, causing the player to forfeit their place. A “withdrawal” is when a player decides not to play all matches in an event.
The ATP publicly confirmed Sinner was suffering from foot blisters and the WTA said Badosa had a viral illness at the time. Still, some social media users and a report by One America News Network spread unfounded claims about what happened, even after the causes of the athletes’ retirements were publicly disclosed. The more than a dozen other retirements or withdrawals at the 2022 Miami Open were not linked to vaccines, either, according to the official results released by the ATP, WTA and published by the Miami Open.
Four players on the men’s side either withdrew or retired during the tournament. In addition to Sinner, the other two retirements were caused by a right foot injury and a right shoulder injury. The one withdrawal was due to a right hand injury. On the women’s side, the WTA and Miami Open list 15 players who either withdrew or retired during the tournament. Seven women retired in addition to Badosa, with reasons listed as lower back pain, a foot injury, heat illness, a right thigh injury, an abdominal injury, a personal reason and thigh injuries affecting two separate players. The seven withdrawals were caused by a left arm injury, an abdominal injury, a right wrist injury, a left shoulder injury, a left thigh injury, a right ankle injury and an unspecified viral illness.
While this year’s count is higher than those of years past, it isn’t unheard of to have dropout rates into the double digits. For example, the last two times the tournament was held, in 2021 and 2019, a total of 11 tennis players, both men and women, either retired or withdrew. Before that, the highest number in recent years was in 2016, when 12 players withdrew or retired.
A representative for the ATP did not comment on the claims, and representatives for the WTA and Miami Open did not respond to requests for comment. The Associated Press has also previously reported on misleading claims that COVID-19 vaccines have caused an alarming wave of deaths and cardiac issues among otherwise healthy athletes.
Experts say there is no supporting evidence for the claim, and cardiologists have told the AP that cases of sudden cardiac arrest have been documented among athletes well before the pandemic began. While a rare risk of myocarditis has been associated with the mRNA vaccines, health officials have concluded that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.
— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in Atlanta contributed this report.