Study: College Athletes Unlikely to Experience Lingering COVID Symptoms

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A study out of Massachusetts General Hospital and published earlier this month found that college athletes who contract COVID-19 are not likely to experience lingering symptoms. 

“Collegiate athletes are probably one of the healthiest segments of the population, and when they get sick it’s less severe,” said Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the MGH Cardiovascular Performance Program and a co-author of the study, as reported by the Boston Herald.

Researchers add, however, that any new chest pain athletes feel upon returning to exercise must be taken seriously.

The study looked at 3,597 male and female athletes representing 44 different NCAA-member colleges and universities and 26 different sports.

Researchers found that just 1.2 percent of the athletes had persistent symptoms that lasted more than three weeks such as loss of smell or taste, shortness of breath, or cough or chest pain. By comparison, about half of the general population that gets coronavirus has lasting symptoms for upwards of six months, but that figure includes people of all ages with varying degrees of health.

The percentage of athletes who returned to exercise and had concerning symptoms such as chest pain was very low — about 4 percent, but Baggish said it’s crucial for athletes to report those symptoms to a medical professional. Of the athletes in the study who had chest pain, 20 percent of them had probable or definite cardiac issues from coronavirus. Attempting to push through myocarditis can have dangerous outcomes, as the best way to treat it is with rest and time, Baggish told the Herald.

Baggish said being healthy and fit provides an extra layer of protection against coronavirus, but no one is completely immune from harmful effects. He said many athletes with coronavirus have symptoms for just a week or two and want to jump back into exercise right away. For athletes returning to activity, Baggish recommends light intensity that ramps up over a matter of weeks.

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