At some stage throughout our playing lives we all get sick. It’s not uncommon to see players debilitated by infections which often spread to their team mates and other club members, ultimately affecting the performance of many club players or their ability to participate at all.

For many players playing with illness is a much more regular occurrence. Medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and cardiovascular conditions are part of the lifestyle of many players and they face issues associated with the management of playing with these illnesses every time they play.

girl with a cold blowing her nose

However is it safe to play whilst affected by illness?

In the case of medical conditions such as those previously mentioned it is recommended that the participant consult with their doctor to determine whether participating will impact on their condition, or whether medication will affect or be affected by playing.

In many instances players with these conditions will often follow illness management plans which have been planned in collaboration with their doctor.

Coaches supervising children with these conditions should also informed of the condition and any required medication to ensure proper management continues uninterrupted.

Viral infections such as colds and flus, and gastrointestinal tract viruses are the most common type of infection. Common symptoms include tiredness, sore throat, running nose, cough, aching muscles and headache. These symptoms and the effect of these viruses have on people, vary in severity and as a consequence the risks associated with playing with such illness.

For mild cases (i.e. where symptoms such as sore throat, running nose etc and no fever) there is little risk of complication if there is an adequate period of rest available after the event. Similarly if the event is not exhausting and the player feels they are able to play then there is likely to be no complications. Being active while suffering a mild viral infection may prolong the illness however this is not proven.

Moderate cases of viral illness (i.e symptoms and mild fever) require greater effort by the heart and lungs. This will have an effect on performance and the player will usually not perform well. Playing with a moderate viral illness is likely to prolong the course of the illness.

Playing sport with a severe viral illness (i.e. significant symptoms affecting the entire body and increased fever) presents a very high risk of prolonging the condition and suffering complications such as pericarditis, a viral infection of the lining of the heart. Repeated attempts to exercise at intense levels while suffering from a severe viral illness is considered a risk factor for chronic fatigue syndrome.