Returning to Sports after a Covid Infection
Written by Dr. Stephanie O'Rourke
If your athlete has tested positive for Covid, there are some things that you should know to help keep them healthy and safely get them back in the game.
During their 10 days of isolation at home when they are infected, they should not exercise, even if they don’t have any symptoms.
- While there are still lots of unknowns right now about the many ways Covid can affect the body, emerging studies show that Covid can cause inflammation in the heart known as myocarditis, even with asymptomatic or mild cases. Although myocarditis is rare in children with Covid, it can be dangerous to exercise while the heart is inflamed.
Once your child has completed their 10 days (with day 0 being either the first day of symptoms or the day the test is done if asymptomatic), then they should be evaluated in the office for a sports physical.
- This evaluation is required by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).
In order to be cleared to get back to sports, they have to be asymptomatic for 24 hours (except for loss of taste/smell).
- If the doctor determines that their symptoms were mild and their exam is normal, then they will be cleared to get back into sports.
Once they are cleared to return, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recommends a gradual 7 day return to sports before they can participate in full practices/games.
- The reason for this slow progression is because they could potentially have some lingering inflammation in the heart and once they begin using their heart for more vigorous exercise, they could become symptomatic.
- The most important thing during this week is to make sure your athlete will let you or the coach know if they develop any new symptoms with exercise.
- Symptoms that would be concerning for myocarditis include chest pain, shortness of breath that seems out of proportion to the activity, palpitations (heart skipping beats), or passing out. If any of these concerning symptoms arise, they should stop exercise and call the doctor with an update right away.
The good news is that the vast majority of kids do not develop any short-term or long-term heart complications from Covid. Most kids are able to fully recover from Covid and return to their sports without any issues.