Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown and a Subsequent Retraining Period on Elite Athletes’ Workload, Performance, and Autonomic Responses: A Case Series

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To describe the effects of COVID-19 lockdown and a subsequent retraining on the training workloads, autonomic responses, and performance of a group of elite athletes. Methods: The training workloads and heart rate variability (assessed through the log-transformed root mean square of successive R–R intervals) of 7 elite badminton players were registered daily during 4 weeks of normal training (baseline), 7 to 10 weeks of lockdown, and 6 to 8 weeks of retraining. Physical performance was assessed at baseline and after each phase by means of a countermovement jump and the estimated squat 1-repetition maximum. Results: A reduction in training workloads was observed in all participants during the lockdown (−63.7%), which was accompanied by a reduced heart rate variability in all but one participant (−2.0%). A significant reduction was also observed for countermovement jump (−6.5%) and 1-repetition maximum performance (−11.5%), which decreased in all but one participant after the lockdown. However, after the retraining phase, all measures returned to similar values to those found at baseline. At the individual level, there were divergent responses, as exemplified by one athlete who attenuated the reduction in training workloads and increased her performance during the lockdown and another one who markedly reduced his workload and performance, and got injured during the retraining phase. Conclusions: Although there seems to be a large interindividual variability, COVID-19 lockdown is likely to impose negative consequences on elite athletes, but these detrimental effects might be avoided by attenuating reductions in training workloads and seem to be overall recovered after 6 to 8 weeks of retraining.

Valenzuela is with the Dept of Systems Biology, University of Alcalá, Madrid, Spain. Valenzuela and Sánchez-Martínez are with the Dept of Sport and Health, Spanish Agency for Health Protection in Sport (AEPSAD), Madrid, Spain. Rivas and Sánchez-Martínez are with the Spanish Badminton Federation, Madrid, Spain.

Valenzuela (pedrol.valenzuela@edu.uah.es) is corresponding author.
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