Supporting Sport to Build Back Better

Project Re-Boot: Team Up


What is ‘long COVID’ – and how might it affect participation in sport?

For some people, coronavirus can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is sometimes called post-covid-19 syndrome or “long COVID”

How long it takes to recover from coronavirus is different for everybody.

Many people feel better in a few days or weeks and most will make a full recovery within 12 weeks. But for some people, symptoms can last longer.

The chances of having long-term symptoms does not seem to be linked to how ill you are when you first get coronavirus.

People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems

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Supporting your family member, relative or friend following their COVID illness can be challenging – you may be providing emotional and physical help in addition to other responsibilities.

This can be a very stressful time for you both and we hope the information within the website will give you reassurance and support during their recovery.

Sleeping well, eating well and being more active is important.

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There is emerging evidence that ‘long covid’ can affect people’s participation in sport, as highlighted below:

“The risks of long Covid mean catching the virus is like “playing Russian Roulette” for the young and healthy” (Dr Nathalie MacDermott, paediatric doctor)

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The BBC recently reported that, Welsh Commonwealth Games (2018) triathlete Chris Silver (aged 30) says the effects of suspected “long Covid” were so severe that he thought he may never recover. He only had mild symptoms at first, but he feels returning to training too soon caused a 10-month battle with ‘long Covid’ that at its worst left him unable to get out of bed. Silver is now warning other athletes not to restart training too quickly after getting Covid-19.

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Zola Budd (54) is one of the latest to share her experience of suffering from Covid-19, and its impact on her running. Taking to social media, and quoted in the Irish News, Zola said,

“It has been four weeks now since our positive test and three weeks since I experienced any symptoms,” she wrote. “I decided to start training again and am experiencing the following symptoms: elevated heart rate. My heart rate, even doing easy runs of not more than 30 minutes is about 20 beats per minute faster than normal.

“Usually, after an easy run, it takes about 1 minute for my HR to go below 120bpm. Now, it takes almost four minutes. This shows me that even after three weeks of no symptoms, my heart is still under strain.”


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Guidance provided by the Department of Sports Medicine at the Sports Institute Northern Ireland provides an overview of potential issues and considerations for athletes returning to sport after activity and following COVID-19 infection. It is based on the best available information and is subject to change as additional knowledge is discovered about this relatively new infection. It is anticipated that athletes should increase their training intensity and duration in a gradual process.

If they develop issues during Graduated Return To Play or symptoms fail to settle – the athlete needs to be assessed medically, as continuing to exercise (even mildly) may be detrimental.

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Further recommended reading from SINI includes The Stanford Hall consensus statement for post-COVID-19 rehabilitation which provides an overarching framework assimilating evidence and likely requirements of multidisciplinary rehabilitation post COVID-19 illness, for a target population of active individuals. This article is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and can be viewed at