Athletes Need to “Rest and Test” After COVID-19 Before Returning to Exercise and Sports
Athletes and weekend warriors, who have had COVID-19, will need to take special care and be cleared before resuming exercise, intense training and/or competitive sports.
Why? Because COVID-19, a viral infection, can cause heart complications such as arrhythmia or myocarditis. Since many people don’t actually know if they had Covid-19 (many people are non-hospitalized, mildly symptomatic, asymptomatic, or pre-symptomatic), this warrants caution for everyone.
So, what to do? I feel fine… is it okay to exercise again?
Here are some thoughts on returning to exercise and sports, but you must consult with your physician and your cardiologist to be sure you are cleared to exercise:
- RECREATIONAL EXERCISER (who had mild to moderate symptoms, were not hospitalized, and had no cardiac symptoms or pre-existing cardiac disease): START SLOWLY and gradually after you have completely recovered, returning to a moderate exercise intensity but watching for any cardiovascular symptoms. Extra precautions are necessary for those with pre-existing cardiac disease and they should be risk assessed and tested before returning to regular exercise levels.
- COMPETITIVE ATHLETES and HIGHLY ACTIVE PEOPLE (with COVID-19 with or without symptoms): REST during the infection and for 2 weeks after symptom resolution. If you are still symptom-free and have no abnormalities in a resting ECG at the end of 2 weeks, it may be okay to return to sports.
- IF YOU HAVE COVID-19 INDUCED MYOCARDITIS: NO SPORTS for at least 3 to 6 months and you should be under a cardiologist’s supervision on when to return to sports. Assuming cardiac function returns to normal, it is likely that returning to exercise and training will be possible. Previous studies and registries of acute myocarditis, athletes with a complete recovery have a very good prognosis.
Exercise and physical fitness, especially outdoors now that the weather is good, can be an excellent way to improve health and emotional well-being following the pandemic outbreak and stay-at-home period. If you had Covid-19, be sure you are knowledgeable about any impact on your heart and be sure to have a cardiologist engaged that will monitor your heart health as you build your musculoskeletal strength.
OrthoConnecticut Can Help
Our physicians and physician assistants advise caution beginning exercise after COVID-19 and recommend consultation with a cardiologist about any cardiac conditions. For exercise advice or orthopedic concerns, we’re here to help.