Dr. Egger, if you have a cough or fever, doctors like to prescribe a break from sports. Why actually? On the one hand, stress tolerance plays a role here. In short: Anyone who is sick cannot exercise to their full potential and also finds the exertion unpleasant. Another point: Infections often affect multiple organ systems, and there is a risk that the infection will not heal well if the body does not get enough rest. Rarely, complications such as myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, can occur. Viruses are usually the trigger, as well as bacteria or other pathogens.

Athletes in particular fear inflammation of the heart muscle. What does “rare” mean in numbers? Basically, it can be said: Anyone who recovers well from an infection can assume that their risk is low. Recently, Covid-19 sufferers have been researched quite well; for example, there is an interesting study with 145 sports-loving students. All were examined after the acute phase of the disease – two of them showed signs of myocarditis. This corresponds to 1.4 percent and roughly corresponds to the frequency that we also know from other viral infections. Here it is also in the low single-digit percentage range.

At the Institute for Sports and Preventive Medicine at Saarland University, you and your colleagues look after competitive athletes. When do you give them the green light to train again after an infection? If the symptoms improve, the athletes usually come to us on their own to be checked out. We look after them closely, for example checking the inflammation levels in the blood and writing an ECG. They can return to training if all values ​​are within the normal range and the clinical signs of the infection have subsided, such as breathing noises or swollen tonsils and lymph nodes.

What does this mean for recreational athletes? Very few of them go to the doctor after a cold and have their blood taken.

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