German Bundesliga duo Jamilu Collins and Kingsley Ehizibue are at risk of suffering “irreversible” and potentially career-ending lung damage from coronavirus a leading German sports doctor has warned.
With the Bundesliga set to restart this weekend, Professor Wilhelm Bloch, from the German Sports University in Cologne, says the stringent hygiene guidelines put in place by the league may prove insufficient to safeguard players’ health.
Left-back Collins who has 13 caps for the Super Eagles is on the books of basement side Paderborn FC while Ehizibue who earned his maiden call-up for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Sierra Leone features for 10th-placed FC Cologne.
Both players are set to return to competitive action for their respective sides this weekend as the Bundesliga becomes the first major European league to resume action.
While acknowledging that no plan could ever be “100 percent safe”, the German Football League (DFL) has drawn up strict guidelines aimed at creating a playing environment with a low, “medically-justifiable risk” when play resumes this Saturday.
Matches will be played behind closed doors, with only a limited number of media and officials allowed to attend.
Players have also been told to limit contact, even on the pitch, and must avoid pre-match handshakes and hugs to celebrate goals.
However, professor Bloch believes despite these measures, players still face a significant risk of contracting coronavirus which could spell the end of their careers.
“There is a risk that top athletes may lose their level of performance and never regain it,” Bloch told the AFP.
“Generally, the physical makeup, immune system and cardiovascular system of elite athletes means that the risk to them is low.
“However, we do not know at this time whether even minor infections, or even mild symptoms, do not cause damage, such as minor scarring of the lungs after an inflammation.
“This damage may be irreversible, or may last a very long time before the body repairs it.
“We’ve already had players infected in Europe and we’ll soon know if they recover their full potential,” Bloch said.
Pointing out that it is near impossible to estimate what the risk is to footballers in Germany, the sports doctor added: “Players are not in total quarantine, they are with their families, even if they have been instructed to limit contact.
“And there are also risks during matches. They will all be tested, but not all the coronavirus tests work perfectly. There is a relatively large margin of error,” he said.
Asides the risk of contracting coronavirus, Bloch also highlighted the increased risk of serious injuries players face given their lack of match fitness since the league stopped in mid-March.
“Obviously, the players are not optimally prepared,” Bloch said, with clubs only resuming full team training last week.
“Depending on the degree of preparation, the risk of injury increases.
“We can expect that the players will be more prone to injuries.
“We will see muscle injuries, but also injuries to the musculoskeletal system and tendons.
“You can’t compare it with the start of the season.
“At the beginning of the season they normally have a very intensive training period, then a short break so that the body can regenerate, and then they attack the season.
“Now, that hasn’t been possible for all the teams.”
Collins’ Paderborn are away to Fortuna Düsseldorf on Saturday, 16 May while Ehizibue’s FC Cologne host FSV Mainz 05 a day later.