Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2023

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Daniel Lucey

Second Advisor

Eric Ramsey

Third Advisor

Anna Minardi


This thesis has investigated the issue of elite athletes recovering from COVID. The motivation behind researching this topic stems from my own struggle with COVID and recovery, as it was frustrating and confusing when my peers returned to their sport quickly, but it took me months to feel healthy enough to train at peak rigor. Our knowledge of Long COVID and its effects, as well as how high-performance athletes should handle the issue, is still lacking. This thesis seeks to answer some questions about Long COVID’s impact on elite athletes. This thesis has reviewed multiple working frameworks for what Long COVID is, and many institutions such as the WHO (World Health Organization) and NIH (National Institutes of Health) have suggested frameworks for what Long COVID is, but all acknowledge that much is still unknown about the issue. Using these frameworks as a guide, this thesis delivers a clear understanding of Long COVID and then analyzes the illness’ impact on elite athletes. In addition to a framework, clearly defining Long COVID is necessary because there are currently no standardized tests to diagnose Long COVID following an initial infection with COVID-19. In place of a standardized test, an agreed-upon definition of Long COVID can help diagnose those who are suffering. Furthermore, a working definition of Long COVID will inform how this thesis’ survey is designed. The purpose of the survey, created with the frameworks and definition in mind, is to gauge whether elite athletes have had Long COVID that affected their performance in sport. Survey results determined which athletes were chosen to take part in a more extensive interview process to learn how COVID affected their performance, physical, and mental health. iii This thesis proves that the findings of the survey and interviews were conclusive. Data suggests that thirty percent of the respondents were affected by Long COVID for three weeks or longer. The interview results also suggest that each athlete had a highly individualized experience with Long COVID; there were both mental and physical symptoms that were unique from athlete to athlete. One key finding of the interview process was that the infected athletes whose recovery was guided by their sport team’s support staff had a healthier return to physical activity compared to individuals who did not have team staff supporting them in their return to physical activity. This thesis will discuss concrete recommendations for how support staff (i.e. sports medicine, coaching staff, teammates) should use dialogue and guidance to ensure a healthy return to sport after suffering from Long COVID.