Long Covid: Cricketer George Garton on his recovery from after-effects of virus

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Southern Brave’s George Garton says he is still feeling the effects of long Covid seven months on, and has had to “learn to breathe again”.

Garton took 3-7 in Southern Brave’s nine-wicket win over Welsh Fire on Monday, including a spell of three wickets in the first seven balls of the match, but had to come off the field as he continues to battle the long-term affects of the virus, which he contracted in January shortly after making his Twenty20 debut for England in the Caribbean.

“I came back from Barbados with England, did fitness tests and was coming stone dead last by a country mile. It’s not me to be like that,” he told BBC Sport.

“I went to see a respiratory specialist. She got me to do a little bit of exercise to watch how I was breathing and she said I was breathing wrong.

“My breathing was very chesty and I was not getting air to the bottom of my lungs, which in turn makes you tired and fatigued.

“I was given a few breathing exercises to do, particularly before I go to bed, to try and train my lungs, strengthen them and literally teach me to breathe again.

“And once I was confident with that I could incorporate it into exercise, which started off running up and downstairs, gradually moving into running and then bowling.”

Garton’s recovery meant he has been able to play for Sussex throughout the summer and now with Southern Brave in The Hundred, though he continues to feel the impact of the virus.

After his devastating opening spell at Cardiff saw him set the platform for victory, Garton soon found himself off the field with symptoms he is now all-too familiar with.

“I went out and did a few bits of fielding on the boundary and I just felt the symptoms,” Garton told BBC Sport. “When it gets like that it can be very overwhelming as it makes you feel like you can’t breathe.

“Your body starts doing funny things and you feel quite lightheaded. Almost like hyperventilating.

“I’ve had it for seven months so I know when it is bad so I knew that I had to take myself off and look after my heart and my lungs, rather than trying to push on because it doesn’t get any better from there.

“So I sat down for a little bit, tried to come out and bowl but it was the fielding that was the issue. And I said to (captain James) Vince I could bowl but it would be at 80%.

“He said firstly he wanted to look after me and second it is a competitive game he needed 100%. So we made the decision to stay off the pitch.”

Despite the debilitating impact of the virus, Garton is looking to the positives as he seeks to manage his fitness, which includes wearing a heart monitor in training.

“It doesn’t affect my technique at all. So that’s a positive as it doesn’t affect my flexibility or anything,” he said.

“I went to see a sports cardiologist and he told me to keep my heart at 120-175 (beats per minute) when I’m exercising or training. Other than that I won’t modify training too much because I need to practise.

“It’s been pretty tough, especially at the start of the summer. I thought I was through it, it’s been about seven months now, but clearly it is still playing tricks a little bit. I definitely feel much better but it is just managing workloads, managing how much I do in training and making sure I’m coming in and feeling 100% for the game.”

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