Influence of Coronavirus Break on the Physical and Mental Condition of Professional Athletes

When is a Player Match Fit?

When the normal flow in sports is interrupted, as is the case during the coronavirus pandemic, the consequences are always big because the continuity in work, as one of the most important things in sports training, is disturbed. The Sports Techie community blog is carefully observing the reopening of professional sport leagues such as the Bundesliga, English Premier League and La Liga across Europe, while here in the United States, the UFC, NASCAR and golf have already conducted live sports events with the NBA, MLB and NHL unveiling contingency plans for opening should COVID-19 continue to trend towards relatively safe playing conditions for participants.

After a break of more than two months from active competing, it’s clear that athletes are eager to return to the “playground”. However, perhaps an even greater challenge comes after the end of the coronavirus pandemic because of the danger of injuries and the choice between the health of athletes and capital.

Consequences of Interruption

Richard Collinge, Head of Medical Services at West Ham United, explains the best way for a player to come back after a long break, but from a slightly different perspective – when a player is coming from an injury, not from a standstill.

“Going into the game knowing that you’re at a higher risk of injury or that you might blow up after 60 minutes isn’t ideal. You need to play two or three Under-23 games or training-ground games to get that. It’s unheard of to have a long time out and then go straight into the Premier League,” he says.

When the normal course in sports is interrupted, the consequences are always great. Of course, that’s in other areas as well. In some areas of life and business, it’s easier to continue despite some problems, but in sports, those problems are bigger.

Firstly, because one of the basic laws in sports training is violated and that’s continuity in work. All coaches who deal with either theory or practice in sports, require athletes to maintain continuity in training during the season both when there are no competitions and when the transition period comes.

We will add that one of the worse things that can happen to an athlete is that he/she has a long absence and interruption of training due to injury or some other reasons. That interruption affects many things.

For those athletes who were in the full competition season, they fall out of sports form. It doesn’t take much for an athlete to get out of shape because it’s maintained by competing, training, and going through all kinds of preparations at a certain level. As soon as the competition stops and it lasts for a while, it’s impossible to maintain the form. It’s even impossible to hold the competition in the form of training, in which players of one team would play each other. It’s very difficult, competitive matches are needed.

The second problem is that there’s a drop in the level of training and that’s the basic condition of sports form. It’s acquired long and gradually, but can be lost in a jiffy. When a month or two passes (exactly as now), without competition and serious training, it’s impossible to stay in shape.

How Does Break Psychologically Affect the Athletes

How does this break psychologically affect the athletes and is there a difference between being absent from the field due to personal reasons such as injury or when the reason is global, such as the COVID-19 pandemic? There are hardly any differences.

Anyone who does his basic job with love is psychologically thrown off track now. We believe that everyone who used to compete is having a hard time and that they miss competitions, matches… And that can’t be compensated with anything. But now, it’s a question of health and lives.

“We as medical staff and coaching staff want the player to be confident, ultimately. We want to make sure that the psychology and feedback from the player are positive so that they can feel primed for competitive action,” Collinge stresses.

Sometimes it’s harder when an athlete is injured, so while the others compete, he/she is left out. This is now a common problem and it may be mentally easier in that sense. If anyone thinks it’s easy for athletes, it’s not. A high level of motivation and complete psychological readiness is also low, and then match fitness disappears like it never existed.

It’s likely that the consequences of this forced interruption due to the coronavirus will be studied in the near future because the modern sport is facing this kind of situation for the first time. So, this will be a challenge for all professions to study everything seriously.

Sports Techie, two good cases studies to consider are the NBA and MLB.

The NBA was on the way to finishing up the season and starting the playoffs when the Utah Jazz had two players test positive for COVID-19 and the next step was history. Not only did the league shut down but it caused a cascading effect with all leagues worldwide to cease operations until more was known about this disease. League officials are talking about restarting the season near Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex owned by Disney in late July. The question remains, how long would physical training take for the these elite athletes to be mentally ready for peak performance required for the emotional playoffs?

Spring training was under way when MLB also shut down for the greater good. Reports say if the entire 2020 MLB season was lost, owners would lose more than $4 billion. Discussions with MLBPA are ongoing with talks stalled on a revenue share plan for a condensed season. The league is somehow ready to perform 14,500 tests to make it so.

MLS has started the process of reopening with individual workouts for their players at stadiums. Bundesliga is playing games with no fans in the stadium. The NFL is prepared to delay the start of their season in case another wave hits America as expected come fall.

While the news of playing sports is uplifting for pro sports leagues and organizations, fans, broadcasters and sponsors alike, time will tell if it is the right decision for all involved since most cases of the disease are spread from asymptomatic people.

My heart goes out to the the more than 100,000 confirmed deaths because of the virus in the U.S. with nearly 350,000 around the globe according to Our World in Data. Experts say the actual number of dead is higher because of the lack of testing.

It is best to stay in shape, stay positive and be ready to enter the flow state for all athletes when the need arises.

See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!

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