BENGALURU: The world of sports is among the sectors to bear the brunt of Covid-19, with competitions getting cancelled or being postponed. Even when events have been held in secure bio-bubbles, like the Indian Premier League, players have been infected with the virus. There are other examples like Tokyo-bound athletes Simranjit Kaur (boxing), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase) and Rani Rampal (women’s hockey) who had to take a break from training after being tested positive.
It meant they had to isolate themselves and stay away from training, which in turn affected their preparations. However, what makes the situation even more worrisome is that it could have a long term impact.
“For those who got infected with Covid, the long term effects have to be seen. Already, there have been papers indicating that there is a long term effect on the heart and lungs of infected individuals,” said VK Srinivas, who is one of the six doctors in the core group of the recently launched Centralised Athlete Injury Management System (CAIMS).
He further added, “For those who are already admitted and in training, their efficiency in their sports will come down drastically because of Covid. Covid is going to play a major role in the direction of sports. One has to be careful. We need to have a questionnaire about Covid and follow up as well."
Srinivas, a cardiologist, will play a vital role in CAIMS, as we have witnessed players suffering a cardiac arrest in the middle of a game. A recent example is Denmark’s Christian Eriksen in the ongoing European Championship against Finland, where the midfielder collapsed suddenly and was later rushed to the hospital for treatment. The next day he was said to be in a stable condition.
"I have been mainly asked for the pre-participation evaluation of the athletes. We are supposed to screen (athletes') cardiac health because most of the deaths happening on the field are related to the heart problem, which are unidentified. Most of them can be prevented, like from birth they can have a hole in heart, or valve problems, or muscle problems like cardiomyopathy or if they have arrhythmia -- means electrical disturbance in the heart muscle, which can cause sudden death when they are running and all, they can develop problems. Recently, you must have seen how a Danish footballer (Eriksen) suffered a cardiac arrest on the field, so those are things that can happen," he said.
When asked about how the screening could be done, the cardiologist hinted how the athletes might have to fill a questionnaire, which would ask them about their previous cardiac problems if any amongst others. However, with CAIMS launched just last week, they are still in the planning stage and things will be clearer in the weeks to come.
“What we have seen in some foreign countries, they screen athletes before they enter into the playing arena. You just have a brief questionnaire -- where they had cardiac problems in the past or symptoms related to heart diseases like palpation or chest pain etc. If these questionnaires point towards the illness, they are subjected to ECG, which can be done for all those people. After the query further examinations can be done and identified. These things will be important for athletes. How we go about it, has to be planned,” said Srinivas, who feels CAIMS will help reduce the duration of the treatment and reduce the extent of the injuries and improve the efficiency of the athletes as well. In fact, CAIMS is expected to support athletes that are a part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) development group in 2024 and beyond.