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Returning to Exercise and Sports After COVID-19 Infection

Most patients can return to exercise or return to playing sports after a COVID-19 infection; however, there are risks that must be considered. Of particular concern is the risk of developing inflammation of the heart due to the coronavirus infection, which can lead to mild or severe cardiac symptoms. The following recommendations provide guidance when returning to exercise or sports, but should not be used as a substitute for obtaining expert medical advice. When in doubt, please consult your physician.

Defining COVID-19 Illness Severity

  • Asymptomatic Illness

      • Positive COVID-19 test, but no symptoms
  • Mild Illness

      • Fever greater than 100.4F for four days or less
      • Less than one week of muscle aches, chills, lethargy
      • No hospitalization
      • Might or might not have received treatment by a physician 

  • Moderate Illness

      • Fever greater than 100.4F for more than four days
      • One week of muscle aches, chills, lethargy
      • Have received treatment by a physician
      • If hospitalized, did not stay in the ICU
      • Did not have multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)

  • Severe Illness

      • Treatment with hospitalization, including all admitted to ICU
      • Includes all cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)

Some schools, organizations and sports teams might require physician clearance and completion of a Return to Play form prior to participation in organized sports.

Returning to Exercise or Sports After COVID-19 Infection

For organized sports, follow the guidelines required for clearance to sports participation that have been provided for the specific team, school or organization.  

  • Asymptomatic or Mild Illness

      • Gradual increase in exercise starting 10 days after resolution of COVID symptoms 
        • Gradually increase exercise intensity and time over a seven-day period unless you experience the symptoms below.
        • Physician clearance is not needed prior to a return to exercise unless the symptoms below are present upon the resumption of physical activity.
        • Decrease your activities and consult a doctor if you develop symptoms of:
          • Abnormal heart rate – rapid or irregular
          • Shortness of breath that is beyond that of a typical mild respiratory illness
          • Difficulty breathing
          • Chest pain
          • Dizziness or light headedness, especially with exercise
  • Moderate or Severe Illness

      • See your doctor for clearance prior to returning to exercise or sports after a moderate or severe COVID illness.
      • Specialized testing is recommended prior to returning to exercise after recovery from a severe COVID illness.
      • Please note that patients with moderate to severe illness from COVID-19 can continue to experience symptoms for several months and that return to exercise or sports can be a prolonged process.