Cardiopulmonary examinations of athletes returning to high-intensity sport activity following SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Babity M, Zamodics M, Konig A, Kiss AR, Horvath , Gregor Z, Rakoczi R, Kovacs E, Fabian A, Tokodi M, Sydo N,
Csulak E, Juhasz V, Lakatos BK, Vago H, Kovacs A, Merkely B, Kiss O;

Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 15;12(1):21686

After SARS-CoV-2 infection, strict recommendations for return-to-sport were published. However, data are insufficient about the long-term effects on athletic performance. After suffering SARS-CoV-2 infection, and returning to maximal-intensity trainings, control examinations were performed with vita-maxima cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET). From various sports, 165 asymptomatic elite athletes (male: 122, age: 20y (IQR: 17-24y), training:16 h/w (IQR: 12-20 h/w), follow-up:93.5 days (IQR: 66.8-130.0 days) were examined. During CPET examinations, athletes achieved 94.7 ± 4.3% of maximal heart rate, 50.9 ± 6.0 mL/kg/min maximal oxygen uptake (V̇O2max), and 143.7 ± 30.4L/min maximal ventilation. Exercise induced arrhythmias (n = 7), significant horizontal/descending ST-depression (n = 3), ischemic heart disease (n = 1), hypertension (n = 7), slightly elevated pulmonary pressure (n = 2), and training-related hs-Troponin-T increase (n = 1) were revealed. Self-controlled CPET comparisons were performed in 62 athletes: due to intensive re-building training, exercise time, V̇O2max and ventilation increased compared to pre-COVID-19 results. However, exercise capacity decreased in 6 athletes. Further 18 athletes with ongoing minor long post-COVID symptoms, pathological ECG (ischemic ST-T changes, and arrhythmias) or laboratory findings (hsTroponin-T elevation) were controlled. Previous SARS-CoV-2-related myocarditis (n = 1), ischaemic heart disease (n = 1), anomalous coronary artery origin (n = 1), significant ventricular (n = 2) or atrial (n = 1) arrhythmias were diagnosed. Three months after SARS-CoV-2 infection, most of the athletes had satisfactory fitness levels. Some cases with SARS-CoV-2 related or not related pathologies requiring further examinations, treatment, or follow-up were revealed.