Resumption of elite-level sports 'safe and viable’ after Covid-19

September 10, 2023

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Expressions: The authors report that there are no relevant financial disclosures.

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Key Takeaways:

  • A resumption of elite-level competitive sports after Covid-19 is „safe and feasible.”
  • None of the elite athletes with Covid-19 developed new cardiovascular symptoms or events or ended their sporting careers due to Covid-19.

Resuming elite-level sports after recovery from Covid-19 is „safe and feasible”, according to a prospective study of Dutch athletes.

Researchers conducted a prospective controlled study of Dutch athletes from the ELITE cohort. The study included 259 athletes (mean age, 26 years; 40% female), of whom 123 had Covid-19 (9% with CV symptoms) and 136 served as controls.

Tiles spelling out the name of the novel coronavirus
A resumption of elite-level competitive sports after Covid-19 is „safe and feasible.”
Image: Adobe Stock

All athletes underwent imaging studies including myocardial MRI. They compared cardiac vessel volumes and function, late gadolinium enhancement, and T1 relaxation times. Researchers also collected data on cardiac adverse events, ventricular arrhythmia burden, and sports career discontinuation. Median follow-up was 26.7 months.

The researchers found no differences between the groups in functional and volumetric cardiac MRI parameters.

There were four athletes from the Covid-19 group (3%) who demonstrated late gadolinium enhancement, one of which was interchangeable with none from the control group. During the study period, all four of those athletes returned to play without an increase in ventricular arrhythmias or adverse cardiac remodeling, the researchers report.

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No athletes from the COVID-19 group reported new cardiac symptoms or events, the researchers wrote.

In the Covid-19 group, 96% were still participating in elite-level sports at the end of the study period, and no sporting careers ended due to Covid-19. Juliet C. Van Huttum, MD. PhD candidate at the University Medical Center Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam and colleagues.

„Resumption of elite-level competitive sports after SARS-CoV-2 infection is safe and feasible, even in a small group (3%) of athletes with SARS-CoV-2-associated myocardial sequelae,” van Huttum and colleagues wrote. „Our study shows that in elite athletes, the cessation of professional sports career is not associated with SARS-CoV-2. There was no association between high-intensity exercise, cardiac remodeling and SARS-CoV-2 during cross-sectional control or prospective analysis. Over 2 years During follow-up, no cardiac symptoms or adverse cardiac events were reported by the included athletes after resuming elite-level sports.

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