Advice for Athletes

Updated: 7th April 2020

British Athletics Mountain Running

Important new information from Dr. Thom Phillips, British Athletics Mountain Running Team Doctor, regarding return to training after Covid-19:

There is emerging evidence that people who get Covid-19 may have an increased risk of developing myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and this may occur as late as days 5 – 8 after your symptoms have got better. Every runner and athlete should have at least seven days rest from when your symptoms have fully resolved before you restart training. If you have had the virus and are unsure about re-starting training, speak to your coach or a doctor for advice regarding gradual return to training.

There have been some confusion on whether it is safe to take ibuprofen because of fears that it will make you more likely to get the virus. However, a study by Kings College London finds no evidence to support this. If you are taking ibuprofen for pain relief then continuing to do so is not a problem. If you develop symptoms of Covid-19, the current best advice is to use Paracetamol only to control the fever.


Athletics Weekly

Dr Noel Pollock, chief medical officer at British Athletics, and co-authors Dr James Hull, Dr John Rogers, Dr Nathan Lewis and Dr James Brown have put together a guide on physical activity, immune function and what to do if you get COVID-19, which is available on the Athletics Weekly website. Below we have shared some of their general measures to take care of your health during this

General measures to ensure you and your immune system are in the best shape possible during this time:

» Regular sleep, ideally of greater than 8 hours per night, is important to help the immune system keep healthy.

» High levels of stress and anxiety have a negative effect on immune function. This is a challenging time for all athletes, especially given your season’s goals or aims may now be uncertain. Seek support if needed and aim to re-plan and consider other ways of re-setting your targets.

» Other strategies to manage stress include continuing with training (within the limitations outlined above), as regular exercise can help to manage stress and anxiety symptoms and can improve sleep. There are many useful meditation and mindfulness apps which can help you manage stress including Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer​.

» As always, it is important to eat a well-balanced diet and to avoid chronic low energy availability which can significantly impair your immune system.

» Stay well hydrated as saliva is an important part of your oral defence. Warm drinks may also help in this regard, but avoid caffeine in the afternoon/evening due to its negative impact on sleep quality.

» Aim for a high intake of fruit and veg ​(7-8 portions per day). These contain polyphenols and flavonoids which have an essential role in respiratory immune function and have been shown to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections.

» Vitamin D supplementation may be particularly important at this time of the year to reduce your risk of respiratory tract infection. If you have not been supplementing through the winter, have not been exposed to sun through the winter months (or if you know your 25 OH vitamin d level is <75nmol/L) then it would be sensible to take over the counter vitamin D3 supplementation.

» Probiotics can be useful in reducing the incidence, severity and duration of upper respiratory tract infections. Work from University College London shows that liquid probiotics survive in the stomach much better than capsules.

» Vitamin C supplementation has been shown to be of benefit in the prevention and treatment of pneumonia. It has also been shown to reduce risk of the common cold in extreme physical stress (skiers and marathon runners) and to reduce the duration of the common cold in the general population. We would recommend taking Vitamin C 500mg daily and increasing this to 1000mg daily if you develop symptoms (persistent cough, fever, breathing problems). Zinc lozenges may also shorten the duration of colds.

» Fish oils contain essential fatty acids and are important in maintaining a healthy immune system. If you have no oily fish in your diet, then 1g of Omega 3 (DHA and EPA) daily may also be helpful.

» There is some evidence to suggest NSAID’s may complicate COVID-19 infection and until more information is available on this problem, we suggest that you discuss with your doctor and stop taking these medications unless absolutely necessary.

» If you have hay fever or asthma, then make sure you have a good supply of any prescribed medications and take this diligently.

» Finally, and one of the most crucial points is also the most simple – wash your hands properly for 20 seconds regularly and remember to avoid touching your face.

To read the full article: