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Association between SARS‐COV‐2 infection and muscle strain injury occurrence in elite male football players: a prospective study of 29 weeks including three teams from the Belgian professional football league

Abstract

Objectives The aim of this study was to investigate the association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and muscle strain injury in elite athletes.

Methods A prospective cohort study in three Belgian professional male football teams was performed during the first half of the 2020–2021 season (June 2020–January 2021). Injury data were collected using established surveillance methods. Assessment of SARS-CoV-2 infection was performed by a PCR test before each official game.

Results Of the 84 included participants, 22 were infected with SARS-CoV-2 and 14 players developed a muscle strain during the follow-up period. Cox’s proportional hazards regression analyses demonstrated a significant association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and the development of muscle strain (HR 5.1; 95% CI 1.1 to 23.1; p=0.037), indicating an increased risk of developing muscle strains following SARS-CoV-2 infection. All athletes who sustained a muscle strain after infection were injured within the first month (15.71±11.74 days) after sports resumption and completed a longer time in quarantine (14.57±6.50 days) compared with the infected players who did not develop a muscle strain (11.18±5.25 days).

Conclusion This study reported a five times higher risk of developing a muscle strain after a SARS-CoV-2 infection in elite male football players. Although this association should be examined further, it is possible that short-term detraining effects due to quarantine, and potentially pathological effects of the SARS-CoV-2 infection are associated with a higher risk of muscle strain injury.

  • COVID-19
  • athletic injuries
  • prospective studies
  • muscle
  • athletes

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Data are available on reasonable request. Requests for data sharing from appropriate researchers and entities will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Interested parties should contact EW (evi.wezenbeek@ugent.be).

This article is made freely available for personal use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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