Return to sport and training : My son has... - Meningitis Now

Meningitis Now

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Return to sport and training


My son has just been discharged from the hospital after VM diagnosis and wants to return to high level sport. Where do I find resources on what is a sensible staged return to high level training?

3 Replies

There is no standard timeline. I would try to find a coach who is experienced with rehab and has a history of getting the most out of average athletes.

This is a really tough question to answer because there are a lot of variables like your son's age, severity of the attack, after effects present etc. I am an endurance athlete (triathlons) and had near fatal VM in 2002 aged 39. I had to take 5 years off from hard physical sport because of an acquired brain injury and also significant after effects and extreme tiredness.

That's at the worst end of the scale of course. I am also a British Triathlon qualified coach and so generally speaking I would suggest coming back slowly, little and often is much better than trying to resume at the level being worked at before. Doing too much too soon will cause recovery to slow down and can even cause the symptoms to recur. It also depends on the sport as well but reducing intensity to a basic level of no fitness is sensible and work back up from there. He should always feel like he could have done more in each session when the session finishes then properly stretching followed by rest. VM can have the effect of hitting the 'reset' button on fitness so as frustrating as it is go back to square one it is the best option in my experience.

Your son will have a natural base fitness so it's not a case of not being able to do anything but VM is an attack on the brain and it isn't always a minor illness as the medical profession, by and large, will tell you. Caution is better than regret with VM.

Better to take things slowly now and recover better from VM than rush back and risk a set back. Even near fatal VM is not a life sentence of inactivity. In the 10th anniversary year of my first attack (I have the recurrent version) I completed my first half ironman, then went on to complete two more plus Long Course Weekend Wales in 2019 (a half ironman over three days). I have also completed half marathons and numerous shorter triathlons. Granted someone said to me on the run of my first half Ironman 'are you running or doing the mannequin challenge' but that's not the point for me, VM nearly killed me, I have numerous after effects and intolerances (caffeine, cocoa, nuts, alcohol and coconut, and to think people wonder why I do endurance sports, no coffee, alcohol and chocolate!).

I am also privileged to be a volunteer community ambassador for Meningitis Now and so if I can help further please do PM me. I also wrote some blog posts about my recovery, just click on my profile and click on 'posts'.

Take care and good luck, thanks, Jonathan

My daughter plays high level netball and thanks to her coach is the reason she is still able to play today.

I agree with Jonad below that short amounts and manageable rather than coming back at full level. My daughters coach would have her take the court for whatever time she could manage whether it be 2 minutes or 10. By doing this allowed her to not only feel part of the team but allowed her to recover whilst still keeping her skill level to a degree.

It has been a long road with constant daily headaches for her and playing full matches would find her in bed for one to two days for the first year post VM, however, given it is her love in life was happy to allow that as it also helped with her mental health.

I think the key is listening to his body which is difficult if they are young as they often push beyond what they should. Start back slowly and for small amounts of time and see what recovery between sessions is like. Hope he is back enjoying the sport he loves soon.

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