'Stay home when sick' advice: implications for sport and exercise

BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2021 Oct 12;7(4):e001227. doi: 10.1136/bmjsem-2021-001227. eCollection 2021.


The coronavirus pandemic has given everyone in society an education on the harms of spread of respiratory illness. Young healthy athletes are far less likely to suffer severe adverse consequences of viral illnesses than the elderly and frail, but they are not completely immune. Chronic fatigue (overtraining) is an uncommon outcome and myocarditis a rare one, but they both warrant due consideration. It is, therefore, a sensible individual strategy to 'stay home when sick' if only for these risks. Traditionally though, athletes have tended to push through (train and play when ill) because of competing concerns, such as key events/matches and 'not wanting to let teammates down'. Data from both low COVID-19 and high COVID-19 countries show that the number of cardiovascular deaths in a society correlates with the number of respiratory deaths at the same time, further linking respiratory viruses to cardiovascular deaths. We are now more aware of public health obligations to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, in particular to protect the more vulnerable members the community. This hopefully will correspond with a change in the culture of sport to one where it is considered 'the right thing to do', to 'stay home when sick'.

Keywords: cardiology prevention; illness; respiratory.