The return to sports after COVID-19 will be different than just flipping a switch and starting a season.
This stoppage of sports due to the pandemic is unprecedented. Restrictions vary across the country from a strict stay at home orders to the shutdown of schools and organized sports.
Right now, most athletes aren’t going to practice or being coached in person. Team practices aren’t occurring. Almost all gyms and school weight rooms are closed as well.
All of this limits what types of training an athlete can be doing.
While many athletes are trying to stay fit with at-home workouts, it’s not the same stimulus to the body or mind. For water sport athletes like swimmers and water polo players, it’s even harder to train appropriately.
Athletes Are Detraining After COVID-19
Athletes improve their fitness, speed, strength, and tissue resilience through their practice, training, and competition. All of those induce stress, too which the athletes adapt.
When there is reduced stress, the body also adapts, back to lower levels.
Because of all this, we can reasonably assume that an athlete’s training adaptations are deteriorating during this time. This process is what we call detraining.
How bad the detraining will be is based on the individual athlete’s genetics, training history, and what they are doing now.
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Nonetheless, we know that even with the best intentions, athletes arent getting the same stimulus to adapt.
Using bodyweight, resistance bands, lightweights, and modified programs help reduce the detraining, but they just won’t cut it. They don’t have the same effect as practicing their sport and comprehensive performance training.
Detraining is a bit like withdrawing money from a bank account. Think of training and practice time as money that’s been invested. The longer the restrictions last, the more athletes are withdrawing from their savings.
Their accounts are starting to dwindle.
Some of the effects of detraining are on whole systems like the cardiac, aerobic, and neuromuscular systems. They each have different rates of detraining.
In other cases, we have to consider specific structures and abilities in athletes. So, what will be different in the athletes after COVID-19 lockdowns?
Reopening sports after COVID-19 lockdowns needs to consider the implications of detraining.
Planning The Return To Sports
Plans for returning to sports after COVID-19 restrictions must consider the size of the detraining withdrawal that’s been made by athletes. The magnitude of the deconditioning will affect how quickly athletes are back to 100 percent.
It’s up to all of us in sports to make sure we work to return athletes to sport safely, successfully, and sustainably. understanding that they are in a different condition is the first step.