Could you tell us more about yourself and the author team?
We are a team of sports physicians and cardiologists working together at the Institute of Sports Medicine and Science of the National Italian Olympic Committee in Rome. The Institute is the reference medical centre for Olympic athletes in Italy. In addition, we evaluate competitive and non-competitive athletes.
What is the story behind your study?
During the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, we observed that Italian athletes won several medals despite the difficulties experienced during the pandemic. Specifically, the athletes dealt with the protective measures of COVID-19, including the withdrawal of the competitions and the forced detraining period due to COVID-19. We were excited about the results and wanted to translate them into scientific words.
In your own words, what did you find?
We found that a mean period of detraining of 30 days due to COVID-19 and the infection itself did not negatively impact Italian Olympic athletes’ performance or did not affect medal achievement. Moreover, almost all the athletes did not present cardiovascular sequelae after the infection and showed a good functional capacity at CPET.
What was the main challenge you faced in your study?
The athletes have undergone periodic evaluations at the institute, and previous medical notes are available. Nevertheless, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a different protocol, including CPET, was requested by national guidelines. Thus, the comparison with the previous exercise test was not possible. This is one of the limitations.
If there is one take-home message from your study, what would that be?
COVID-19 and a period of forced detraining do not negatively impact physical performance and athletes’ results.