Doctor advises student-athletes who contracted COVID should ease back into activity

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — High school athletes haven’t competed in months amid the pandemic. Relaxed COVID-19 restrictions allow students to return to their games once again.

But many athletes aren’t just physically rusty from the time off. Some who have battled the virus tell us it has also been a mental challenge.

It’s been a tough road for some student-athletes returning to their sport after recovering from COVID. A local doctor says he’s seen it too.

“I had the fever at first and then when it really hit me I had it is when I lost my taste and lost my smell,” said Zach Derus, a senior at Rockford Lutheran,

Recovering from the virus can be different for everyone. Some experience extreme fatigue and loss of taste or smell. Others are asymptomatic.

For student-athletes who battled the virus, like Rockford Lutheran senior Zach Derus, returning to action can prove to be more of a mental than a physical challenge.

“It was like three days that I felt physically drained. It was the mental part for me it was like being in the house for two weeks not being able to do anything, that part really sucked,” Derus said.

Derus isn’t the only student-athlete who has experienced mental fatigue coming back from the virus. Dr. Anthony Rizzo is a sports medicine physician at Mercyhealth Hospital.

“A lot of athletes that use that as kind of an outlet for stress relief, we’re seeing a little bit more of a build-up of anxiety and some depression of younger athletes such as teenagers and college-level athletes,” said Dr. Rizzo.

Rizzo also works as a team physician for Rockford University. He says those who had moderate to severe symptoms need to be aware of physical concerns as well.

“The bigger concern I get is their hearts because we are seeing some connections with infection of the heart due to COVID. So that’s the one thing that we screen our athletes for. So when it comes to screening that means we’re doing a screening EKG and if we’re seeing stuff pop-up on that then we’re sending them to a specialist, a cardiologist,” Dr. Rizzo explained.

While Derus admits he put pressure on himself to get back on the court. He advises other student-athletes battling back to prioritize their health.

“It definitely took me a little while to get back to full strength. After a little while, like two weeks or so, started to get back into it and from there, you know, I started to get my strength back and felt pretty good after that,” Derus added.

Dr. Rizzo recommends using a return-to-play program. The program lasts between 5 and 7 days, which allows players to gradually increase physical activity.

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