Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Acute respiratory illness and return to sport: a systematic review and meta-analysis by a subgroup of the IOC consensus on ‘acute respiratory illness in the athlete’


Objective To determine the days until return to sport (RTS) after acute respiratory illness (ARill), frequency of time loss after ARill resulting in >1 day lost from training/competition, and symptom duration (days) of ARill in athletes.

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources PubMed, EBSCOhost, Web of Science, January 1990–July 2020.

Eligibility criteria Original research articles published in English on athletes/military recruits (15–65 years) with symptoms/diagnosis of an ARill and reporting any of the following: days until RTS after ARill, frequency (%) of time loss >1 day after ARill or symptom duration (days) of ARill.

Results 767 articles were identified; 54 were included (n=31 065 athletes). 4 studies reported days until RTS (range: 0–8.5 days). Frequency (%) of time loss >1 day after ARill was 20.4% (95% CI 15.3% to 25.4%). The mean symptom duration for all ARill was 7.1 days (95% CI 6.2 to 8.0). Results were similar between subgroups: pathological classification (acute respiratory infection (ARinf) vs undiagnosed ARill), anatomical classification (upper vs general ARill) or diagnostic method of ARinf (symptoms, physical examination, special investigations identifying pathogens).

Conclusions In 80% of ARill in athletes, no days were lost from training/competition. The mean duration of ARill symptoms in athletes was 7 days. Outcomes were not influenced by pathological or anatomical classification of ARill, or in ARinf diagnosed by various methods. Current data are limited, and future studies with standardised approaches to definitions, diagnostic methods and classifications of ARill are needed to obtain detailed clinical, laboratory and specific pathogen data to inform RTS.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42020160479.

  • athletes
  • respiratory system
  • infection

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.