Dozens of studies across the world have linked Coronaviruses, from a variety of species, to either kidney disease or inflammatory illness, caused by their presence in men who swim or play contact sports. But they are particularly worrisome for women, since sports in general are a source of labor and disease.

Researchers have now found an unusual link to Coronaviruses, while not limiting this relationship to football. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Coronaviruses have been linked to women’s sports through blood tests that measure the inflammatory markers, which could indicate elevated risk for long-term kidney damage or cardiovascular disease, and the researchers said the results may help design better therapies.

The researchers involved in the study studied 700 women’s soccer players in their mid-20s, some of whom had been hospitalized with their typical chronic kidney disease, and others with autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.

Both groups were located at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and across many socioeconomic classes, including many from poor neighborhoods. Researchers asked those in the autoimmune disease group to spit into a syringe, and then tested their blood for three different types of Coronaviruses. They found that both groups carried the same serotype, perhaps suggesting that women with autoimmune diseases have an unusually high risk of contracting the virus.

But when they compared the two groups, they found that the ones with autoimmune diseases had five-fold higher levels of Coronaviruses in their blood than those with chronic kidney disease, according to the study. The researchers said it is not known how Coronaviruses interact with certain levels of inflammation, but they did say that an infection like Crohn’s or multiple sclerosis could present a similar, maybe even an even more severe, risk than a head cold.

At the same time, if you think your athletes or other members of your team are becoming infected with this virus, be sure to get them to a doctor.