Purpose: The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of different SARS-CoV-2 strains on the functional capacity of athletes. Methods: In total, 220 athletes underwent cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) after coronavirus infection and before returning to sports activities. Eighty-eight athletes were infected by the Wuhan virus, and 66 were infected during the Delta and Omicron strain periods of the pandemic. Results: The CPET results showed significantly decreased maximal oxygen consumption, ventilatory efficiency, and oxygen pulse in athletes who were infected with Wuhan and Delta strains compared to athletes who suffered from Omicron virus infection. An early transition from aerobic to anaerobic metabolic pathways for energy production was observed in the Wuhan and Delta groups but not in athletes who were infected with the Omicron strain. There were no differences in the obtained results when Wuhan and Delta virus variants were compared. Conclusion: These results suggest that the Wuhan and Delta virus strains had a significantly greater negative impact on the functional abilities of athletes compared to the Omicron virus variant, especially in terms of aerobic capacity and cardiorespiratory function.
Ključne reči: SARS-CoV-2, functional capacity, professional athletes, respiration, aerobic endurance