Covid-19: what we know about the consequences for top athletes

He had worried the world of sport. In April 2020, the Montpellier Hérault Sport Club Junior Sambia player, positive for Covid-19, was admitted for two days in intensive care. In June, he confided to France Blue Hérault have regained all of their means despite a deficit of “Two-three kilos” on its usual form weight.

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In early May, it was Boston Celtics basketball player Evan Fournier, who admitted to still feeling the effects of the Covid, contracted a month earlier: “It’s like I have a concussion. It’s getting a little better right now, but initially it was the bright lights that bothered my eyes and my vision was blurry. Everything was going too fast for me. And it still is. “

Rather preserved from serious forms of the disease, top athletes do not all get back on their feet quickly after coming out of the disease. Without knowing exactly why. “Covid affects the lungs, probably vessels and certain nervous systems. But that, these are only physiopathological hypotheses, explains Fabien Pillard, physiologist and sports doctor at the university sports clinic of the University Hospital of Purpan, in Toulouse. Today, when questioning athletes, what comes up the most is: fatigue, shortness of breath, deconditioning or the inability to regain an expression of previous physical condition. In this case, which organ is failing? Today, we don’t know. “

Questions about an increased risk of injury

This unknown factor is also maintained by the inequality of reactions, depending on the individual. Romain Loursac, one of the doctors of Lyon Olympique Universitaire, among the clubs most affected in the Top 14 (around twenty cases since the start of the season), affirms that he has hardly been confronted with these exhausting situations. “Some players were tired during their recovery but nothing more. When they are affected by the Covid, they are completely stopped for ten days so, by force of circumstances, they decondition themselves to a minimum. We just had two who found it a bit more difficult to come back: in the first week, they were a little more tired. “

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This state of form raises questions about injuries, especially muscle injuries: would athletes be, after the Covid, more prone to tears and others? “Like any inflammatory pathology, there is a possibility that the skeletal muscle, such as the quadriceps, is affected, recognizes Fabien Pillard. We are currently carrying out a study in athletes to find out if the risk of injury is increased.

A study on the sequelae for the heart

What specialists are certain of is that the virus can affect the heart. “Myocarditis was a big fear”, concedes Romain Loursac. In France, only one case of myocarditis has been detected in high-level athletes: William Wavrin, the third row of Stade Montois in Pro D2, tested positive in October, was kept away from the field for five months, to avoid any drama. “It remains an inflammation of the heart, but when you solicit an inflamed muscle, it finds itself kneaded with stiffness”, warns Purpan’s doctor.

The clubs therefore remain vigilant and organize a battery of tests before relaunching their foals. “Once the player is negative, we do a cardiac assessment with blood test, ultrasound and others. Then we set up, with the physical trainers, a classic progressive recovery “, explains the Lyon Olympique Universitaire doctor. In order to better anticipate the dangers, two Bordeaux researchers embarked on a study in March 2020 to understand the possible sequelae of Covid on the heart. A work, in which the National Rugby League participates, carried out on a panel of 2,000 sportsmen, including 1,400 rugby players from professional clubs. The results are expected to be released in June.

So far, only an American study, published last March in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology, has looked into the question. And delivered reassuring conclusions: it detected only five cases of myocarditis for 789 players who tested positive for Covid-19. Or 0.63% of the target population.


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