Long COVID: Dramatic consequences observed in the best German athletes

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Last Wednesday, the German cabinet approved a new infection protection law. The provisions, which will come into force on October 1, represent a further relaxation on previously existing measures against COVID-19. The federal government is thus paving the way for a massive wave of infections in the fall and winter that will far exceed current levels. In addition to a wave of deaths, this will also lead to an attack on public health, including a massive spread of Long COVID.

The magnitude of these long-term consequences, even for top athletes, is illustrated by the example of canoeist Steffi Kriegerstein, who contracted the coronavirus in December 2020. The professional sports teacher won medals in races canoeing at numerous European and world championships. At the Rio Olympics in 2016, she won a silver medal. Today, she had to stop her career.

Steffi Kriegerstein (top left) at the 2016 European Canoe Racing Championships in Moscow, where she and Sabrina Hering (front left) won silver in the 500m double kayak (Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro), CC BY -SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

“Despite all the health problems, last year I tried to get back into shape. But I realized that the return to competitive sports is huge,” she explained to The Spiegel. “I have always been in contact with doctors, but [now] physical exertion robs me of quality of life on a daily basis,” she added. She said she would “definitely say goodbye to competitive sports” at the German Championships.

As she points out in her interview with The Spiegel, the illness itself lasted 14 days and was characterized by pain in the limbs and headache. However, medical examinations after the illness revealed that the real consequences were much deeper.

It turned out that the 28-year-old’s heart had shrunk, which was both visually apparent and noticeable when testing her heart-lung volume. Kriegerstein’s cardiac output as a top athlete from over 90% has dropped to 60%. The normal value is about 70%.

In addition, there were many other symptoms. “The headaches were particularly bad,” she said. “The feeling of pressure in the back of my head quickly spread to my eyes and my balance. I struggled and tried to move forward. But somehow the body did not want.

Even today, a year and a half after the infection, she is still fighting against the sequelae. Even climbing the stairs or walking to the bus can cause him difficulty.

Steffi Kriegerstein is not an isolated case. National ice hockey player Janik Möser, for example, suffered from heart muscle inflammation as a result of contracting COVID-19 and two weeks after infection he was not even allowed to ride. stairs.

Wrestler Frank Stäbler, who was considered a medal hopeful for the Tokyo Olympics, reported that his performance had dropped by 20% due to his infection. He couldn’t breathe during running exercises. “My whole chest completely contracted,” he explained.

Rower Marie-Sophie Zeidler reported that when she returned to training after her COVID-19 illness, her body went on strike at 30% of her usual maximum load. His heart and lung functions were borderline; its catastrophic oxygen consumption.

Experts estimate that more than 500 top German athletes have now contracted COVID-19. The virus is spreading among athletes, especially with the resumption of major sporting events without real protective measures in place.

Even if the course of the disease turns out to be relatively harmless, for many the subsequent consequences can still be serious. Dr. Jürgen Steinacker, a sports physician from Ulm, Germany, estimates that around 5% of athletes still suffer from symptoms three to six months after contracting the disease. These include heart and lung problems, neurological complications, such as loss of taste and coordination problems, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Cologne-based sports doctor Dr Wilhelm Bloch explained: “Not everyone will recover to their former level of performance. This is where worlds come crashing down.

While professional athletes can usually afford the necessary medical support and regain some of their previous level of performance with the help of specialist trainers, most workers have to get by without any support.

Various studies conclude that between 10 and 30% of people infected with the coronavirus suffer long-term consequences. A study of 1,733 patients from Wuhan, China, published in The Lancet medical journal, concluded that 76% of patients still had at least one symptom six months after infection.

The long COVID can affect almost any organ and cause a wide range of symptoms. Some of the most common include extreme fatigue, cognitive impairment, chronic pain, loss of taste and smell, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat, all of which have profound effects on the quality of life of people. patients.

Children are also frequently affected by long-term effects. The doctors’ press service published an interview in early August entitled “In pediatric cardiology and pulmonology, the long COVID is inundating us”.

In the interview, Dr. Gerald Hofner, co-founder of the practice “Post-COVID Kids Bavaria”, says: “Two of us see three to five patients every day with complaints following an infection with SARS- CoV2: Above all, we see very many athletic children and adolescents who are no longer able to perform for weeks and months, with heart or lung damage or fatigue problems.There is no comparison with the flu. The problems occurred in vaccinated and unvaccinated children and adolescents.

Many media are reporting cases of children whose lives have been completely changed as a result of COVID-19 infection. Broadcaster ZDF, for example, is reporting on an 11-year-old Long COVID patient named Emma, ​​who can barely stand and has struggled to breathe since her infection.

“Then I panic, even though nothing can actually happen there. And dizziness is also a bad problem, I actually have it all the time,” she complained to ZDF.

The ZDF regional program Landerspiegel reported 16-year-old Long COVID patient Sina Morgen, who is unable to walk due to muscle pain following a coronavirus infection and is now confined to a wheelchair.

The effects of Long COVID underscore the criminality of ruling class herd immunity policies that deliberately allow mass infection to spread. They specify that there can be no “living with the virus” and that the only way to fight it is to eliminate it. Because such a strategy of elimination is incompatible with the profit interests of the ruling class, it must be opposed by the working class.

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