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ORIGINAL ARTICLE  EPIDEMIOLOGY AND CLINICAL MEDICINE Freefree

The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2021 July;61(7):977-82

DOI: 10.23736/S0022-4707.20.11501-9

Copyright © 2020 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Impact of COVID-19 lockdown on endurance capacity of elite handball players

Sven FIKENZER 1 , Kati FIKENZER 1, Ulrich LAUFS 1, Roberto FALZ 2, Hagen PIETREK 3, Pierre HEPP 4

1 Clinic and Polyclinic of Cardiology, Clinical University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany; 2 Institute of Sports Medicine and Prevention, Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany; 3 SC DHfK Handball Team, Leipzig, Germany; 4 Clinic of Orthopedics, Trauma Surgery and Plastic Surgery, Clinical University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany



BACKGROUND: The lockdown due to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has far-reaching consequences for professional sports in Germany. The aim of the present study was to investigate the impact of the eight-week lockdown on endurance capacity of elite male handball players.
METHODS: Ten male athletes (192±8 cm and 96±6 kg) from the first German handball league participated in the study. The effects of training on shuttle run tests between period 1 (P1: pre-season to mid-season) and period 2 (P2: mid-season to time after lockdown) were compared. The maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) was assessed using an incremental exercise test (IET) (July 2019 and May 2020).
RESULTS: During the COVID-19 lockdown, the athletes completed an instructed home-based strength and endurance program (52/48). The training effects were found to be reduced after the 8-weeks of COVID-19 lockdown (period 2) as compared to period 1 (mean difference 249±248 m, P=0.005). There was no significant difference in the running distance (2358±430 m vs. 2400±362 m, respectively, P=0.70) after the lockdown as compared to the pre-seasonal performance. VO2max (46.6±5.1 vs. 49.4±7.0 mL/kg/min, respectively, P=0.12) and the power output (3.13±0.36 vs. 3.13±0.43 W/kg, respectively, P=1.0) also did not differ between pre-season and after COVID-19 lockdown.
CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 lockdown led to a reduction in endurance capacity of elite handball players without team training, despite a home-based strength and endurance program. Supervision of individual home-based training is highly recommended to avoid inadequate implementation of the training.


KEY WORDS: Athletes; Physical endurance; Running; COVID-19

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