• Hadi Shabbir

Effects of COVID-19 on Athletes


Many professional athletes have contracted COVID-19 over the past year and have recovered with no long-term effects. However, quite a few athletes have suffered long roads to recovery and life-threatening symptoms such as myocarditis. Getting COVID-19 can potentially end an athlete’s career.

Despite primarily being a respiratory disease, COVID-19 can result in the inflammation of the heart muscle, myocarditis, or inflammation of the covering of the heart, pericarditis. Myocarditis is the cause of 5-22% of sudden cardiac death in athletes under 35 years old. Patients have also experienced other cardiovascular complications. A study done at Ohio State University suggests that COVID-19 can result in lasting effects on the heart. The study included twenty-six student athletes, and it was discovered that 15% of them showed signs of heart inflammation as they recovered from the disease. Buffalo Bills player Tommy Sweeney developed myocarditis, prematurely ending his season.

Myocardial injury is relatively common in patients with COVID-19, accounting for 7%-23% of cases, and is associated with a higher rate of morbidity and mortality. From a group of 416 patients at the Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, 19.7% had cardiac injury. Mortality among the myocardial injury group was significantly higher. In a separate study involving 150 patients with confirmed COVID-19, sixty-eight patients died, with 5 patients dying of heart failure and 22 patients dying of respiratory and heart failure.

COVID-19 has also caused a number of athletes to miss significant time conditioning. Orlando Magic player Mohammed Bamba tested positive on June 11, 2020, and was unable to consistently play basketball until January. In addition to lack of conditioning, he also suffered fatigue and muscle soreness. Boston Celtics player Jayson Tatum also had similar issues, despite returning two weeks after catching the disease.

“Just running up and down the court a few times, it’s easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster. I’ve noticed that since I’ve had COVID,” he stated.

White Sox player Yoán Moncada’s performance has drastically declined after testing positive for COVID-19. Speaking of his experience with the disease, he stated: “When I got to Chicago, before I tested positive, I was feeling strong and with energy. Now, it’s like a daily battle to try to find that strength, that energy to go through the day.”

Unlike many of these athletes, New York Liberty player Asia Durr may have her career prematurely ended due to COVID-19. She tested positive on June 8, 2020, and has not played a game since. Durr is known as a long-hauler, surviving the disease but not fully recovering from it. Long-haulers have been developing brain fog, vertigo, debilitating fatigue, and difficulty breathing. Durr is twenty-three years old, with only one professional season played before catching COVID-19. Now, her career may be over.

Durr stated: “I haven’t been able to [pick up a ball and play]. It’s really challenging for me. But I’ve talked to doctors and they’ve told me I’m not cleared yet. I’m not cleared to be able do anything physically, which could cause flare-ups. That’s what’s really hard for me. Because in life whenever something was hard, I would go play. I can’t even do that now. I can’t even shoot a free throw.”

Despite being young and in excellent shape, some athletes have not been able to fully recover from COVID-19. In addition to many athletes suffering conditioning issues, the effects of COVID-19 can prove fatal, due to cardiovascular complications. Most of the athletes afflicted with this disease have managed to play again, but not all have been able to. COVID-19 can derail, and even end careers.


Speaking Plainly:

  • COVID-19 can cause cardiovascular issues, which can be fatal.

  • Athletes have trouble with conditioning after catching the disease.

  • Young individuals can have serious long-term complications due to the disease.