Special feature for the Olympics: effects of exercise on the immune system: infections and exercise in high-performance athletes

Immunol Cell Biol. 2000 Oct;78(5):510-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1711.2000.t01-12-.x.


The elite athlete has a potentially increased sensitivity to respiratory infections, rendering protective measures particularly important. Some other infections that may appear in clusters in the sports setting, such as gastroenteritis, leptospirosis, herpes simplex and viral hepatitis, also require special precautionary attention. Strenuous exercise during ongoing infection and fever may be hazardous and should always be avoided. In addition, early symptoms of infection warrant caution until the nature and severity of the infection become apparent. Because myocarditis may or may not be accompanied by fever, malaise or catarrhal symptoms, athletes should be informed about the symptoms suggestive of this disease. Although sudden unexpected death resulting from myocarditis is rare, exercise should be avoided whenever myocarditis is suspected. Guidelines are suggested for the management and counselling of athletes suffering from infections, including recommendations on when to resume training. Acute febrile infections are associated with decreased performance resulting from muscle wasting, circulatory deregulation and impaired motor coordination, which require variable amounts of time to become normalized once the infection is over.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fever / physiopathology
  • HIV Infections / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiology*
  • Infections* / epidemiology
  • Infections* / physiopathology
  • Infections* / therapy
  • Male
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Myocarditis / diagnosis
  • Myocarditis / etiology
  • Myocarditis / physiopathology
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports*