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Returning to Play Following Covid

As we face a huge surge in the Covid outbreak, you and your team will no doubt be impacted as many of your athletes may have become infected (or a household contact). Normally your athletes are highly active people, although through the period of infection they would likely have come to a complete standstill.

Covid is certainly impacting people differently, from the ‘very mild, hardly knew they had it,’ to ‘very sick, bed ridden (or worse) with prolonged effects,’ and everywhere in between. Whatever the state of your athletes, they are likely to have done no activity for 7-10 days, so the worst thing we can do is to chuck them straight back into a full training load.

Returning to train and/or play, following Covid is similar to an athlete returning from injuries they may have. When returning from injury, athletes slowly return to full training, through increasing load, intensity and duration. This process is generally tailored to the individual and is certainly not a ‘one size fits all.’

The guidelines from Elliot et al (2020), suggest that training for any athletes who have had Covid can commence once an athlete is symptom free for 7 days and can “complete activities of daily living and walk 500m on the flat without excessive fatigue or breathlessness.” From that point, their load, intensity and duration can slowly increase over the first week.

Note: these guidelines were designed for high-performance environments with high levels of monitoring. What it could look like for you:

  • Day 1: 15mins light jog / cycle (indicator - they can talk at the same time)

  • Day 3: 30mins involvement in simple activities, increasing heart rate

  • Day 4-5: 45mins involvement in more complex activities

  • Day 7: Full involvement in training

Your athletes should be able to progress through the stages without any symptoms (including excessive fatigue), otherwise the athlete should return to the previous stage and progress again after a minimum of 24 hours period of rest without symptoms.

Disclaimer: This blog is interpreted from an article from Elliot et al (2020) and has been written to raise awareness for coaches who are managing their athletes returning to train and play following Covid. Please seek advice from medical experts for more specific guidance relating to your context.

Click here for Elliot et al article.


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