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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
  1. Evi Wezenbeek1,
  2. Sander Denolf1,
  3. Tine Marieke Willems1,
  4. Dries Pieters1,
  5. Jan G Bourgois2,3,
  6. Renaat M Philippaerts4,
  7. Bram De Winne5,
  8. Matthias Wieme1,
  9. Robbe Van Hecke1,
  10. Laurence Markey1,
  11. Joke Schuermans1,
  12. Erik Witvrouw1,
  13. Steven Verstockt6
  1. 1Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
  2. 2Department of Performance and Sports Sciences, KAA Ghent, Ghent, Belgium
  3. 3Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  4. 4Royal Standard Club de Liège, Liège, Belgium
  5. 5SV Zulte Waregem, Waregem, Belgium
  6. 6Department of Electronics and Information Systems, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to dr. Evi Wezenbeek, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium; evi.wezenbeek{at}ugent.be

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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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).

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Footnotes

  • Contributors Each of the authors has read and concurs with the content in the final manuscript. First author (EW) is responsible for the overall content as guarantor. We confirm that this manuscript has not been published elsewhere and is not under consideration for publication by any other online or print journal. All authors have made substantial contributions to all of the following: (1) the conception and design of the study, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data, (2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content, (3) final approval of the version to be submitted.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.