Return to play after infectious mononucleosis

Jonathan A Becker, Julie Anne Smith
Sports Health 2014, 6 (3): 232-8

CONTEXT: Infectious mononucleosis is a disease primarily of adolescence and early adulthood. The risk of splenic injury and chronic fatigue make return-to-play decisions a challenge for the clinician caring for athletes with infectious mononucleosis.

EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: Data were obtained from the PubMed and MEDLINE databases through December 2012 by searching for epidemiology, diagnosis, clinical manifestations, management, and the role of the spleen in infectious mononucleosis.

STUDY DESIGN: Clinical review.


RESULTS: Infectious mononucleosis is commonly encountered in young athletes. Its disease pattern is variable and can affect multiple organ systems. Supportive care is the cornerstone, with little role for medications such as corticosteroids. Physical examination is unreliable for the spleen, and ultrasound imaging has limitations in its ability to guide return-to-play decisions. Exercise does not appear to place the young athlete at risk for chronic fatigue, but determining who is at risk for persistent symptoms is a challenge.

CONCLUSION: Return-to-play decisions for the athlete with infectious mononucleosis need to be individualized because of the variable disease course and lack of evidence-based guidelines.

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