Returning to Sports after a COVID-19 Infection

By Timothy J. Flynn, M.D.

Coronavirus affects people of all ages. Most children who are infected have mild symptoms and recover completely. However, some children can get seriously ill or may have symptoms that persist for a prolonged period of time. For example, loss of taste and smell can persist for months in some cases. Although uncommon, some children will have a feeling of shortness of breath that persists for weeks even after the infection is otherwise gone. 

One area of ongoing investigation is the possibility that COVID-19 may affect the heart, possibly by causing myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle tissue. Certain viruses can cause myocarditis in children. It is possible that COVID-19 affects some children’s heart muscle either by causing myocarditis or some other problem. 

Research into the effects of COVID-19 infection in athletes is still in the early stages; however, based on what is known so far, preliminary guidelines have been created to help medical professionals decide when athletes infected with COVID-19 can return to play. Everyone with a positive COVID-19 test should refrain from exercise for 10 days. Further evaluation is generally not needed for children who had no symptoms or fewer than 4 days of fever. Children who had more serious or prolonged symptoms (including 4 or more days of fever) should see a doctor to discuss if more testing is needed and to create a return-to-play plan.

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