“AFTER FIVE minutes of movement I had to stop because I was struggling to breathe,” explained Paulo Dybala in March 2020. It was a common experience of covid-19 relayed by a very uncommon man. Mr Dybala is a star forward for Juventus, a leading Italian football team, whose athleticism fetches more than $10m a year. …
So researchers looked at data like minutes played, distance run and passes completed for 257 players in the German and Italian top football competitions who had contracted covid.
If relative performance between infected and uninfected players was stable before contracting covid, but declines after, this should indicate the lingering effects of the virus. Using this statistical methodology … the authors detected a decline of 9% in minutes played. Passes completed fell by 6% and did not return to normal for months.
The Economist found a similar pattern when we replicated the analysis using a more sophisticated player-value score (a composite of more than 40 on-field activities) provided by the Twenty First Group, a sports-intelligence consultancy. In the ten weeks after infection there was an average drop in score of 0.14 standard deviations (equivalent to the median player dropping to the 30th percentile). But after ten weeks these reverted to normal, suggesting that players may compensate for passing less and spending less time on the pitch.
Long covid is real, but how worse than the flu?
It drags down the performance of prime athletes with all the medical care that money can buy, so what about the rest of us? Indeed, what about Boris Johnson — hardly seems like the man he was before covid, like he’d aged several years all at once.