University of Oulu

Valtonen M, Grönroos W, Luoto R, Waris M, Uhari M, Heinonen OJ, et al. (2021) Increased risk of respiratory viral infections in elite athletes: A controlled study. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0250907.

Increased risk of respiratory viral infections in elite athletes : a controlled study

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Author: Valtonen, Maarit1; Grönroos, Wilma2; Luoto, Raakel3;
Organizations: 1Research Institute for Olympic Sports, Jyväskylä, Finland
2Paavo Nurmi Centre and Unit for Health and Physical Activity, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
3Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Turku University Hospital and University of Turku, Turku, Finland
4Institute of Biomedicine, University of Turku and Department of Clinical Virology, Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland
5PEDEGO Research Unit, University of Oulu and Department of Pediatrics and Adolescents, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Public Library of Science, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-06-14


Background: Respiratory symptoms are commonly recognised in elite athletes. The occurrence, etiology and clinical presentation of the illnesses in athletes is unclear.

Methods: We performed a prospective controlled study of respiratory viral infections in Team Finland during Nordic World Ski Championships 2019. There were 26 athletes and 36 staff members. Nasal swabs were taken at the onset of a symptom and on days 1, 7, and 13 during the follow-up of 14 days. Respiratory viruses were searched for by 3 different molecular multiplex tests. Fifty-two matched control subjects were studied in Finland during the same period.

Results: Ten out of 26 (38%) athletes, 6 out of 36 (17%) staff, and 3 out of 52 (6%) control subjects experienced symptoms of respiratory infection (p = 0.0013). The relative risks for acquiring symptomatic infection were 6.7 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.1–21.0) of athletes and 2.9 (95% CI, 0.84–10.0) of the staff as compared to the controls. Asymptomatic infections were identified in 8%, 22%, and 19%, respectively (p = 0.30). The etiology of respiratory infections was detected in 84% of the cases.

Conclusion: The athletes had a 7-fold increase in the risk of illness compared to normally exercising control subjects.

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Series: PLoS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
ISSN-E: 1932-6203
ISSN-L: 1932-6203
Volume: 16
Issue: 5
Article number: e0250907
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250907
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 315 Sport and fitness sciences
3121 General medicine, internal medicine and other clinical medicine
Funding: This work was supported by Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation and Väinö and Laina Kivi Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Copyright information: © 2021 Valtonen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.