Even though it’s primarily a respiratory infection, COVID-19 can affect your body with all kinds of bizarre symptoms besides a fever and cough. The extensive list of side effects includes everything from loss of smell and taste to brain fog—with some even lasting long after the virus has run its course. And while anyone struggling to recover from the disease is bound to face difficulties, it may be different if you happen to be a star athlete whose job depends on their health. Now, the three-time MVP quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, has revealed that he’s still struggling with one lingering condition after coming down with COVID-19. Read on to see what’s still affecting the football star.
It was major news when Rodgers announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 3, forcing him to sit out from practice for ten days and miss a game against the Kansas City Chiefs. But after returning, speculation around a nagging lower-body injury has been swirling since he led the Packers to a loss against the Vikings on Nov. 21. Rodgers retreated to the locker room to have the injury assessed at one point before halftime while backup quarterback Jordan Love took his place for the final kneel-down snaps of the quarter. After the game, Rodgers described his toe injury as “very, very painful,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
During an on-air interview on The Pat McAfee Show on Nov. 23, Rodgers opened up for the first time about how he was coping with any complications from COVID. “I’m thankful that I felt good in just a few days and didn’t have any lingering effects other than the COVID toe.” But, he added: “This is something that’s not going to go away.”
The discovery of lesions on the toes as a symptom of the virus took the medical world somewhat by surprise. Ebbing Lautenbach, MD, chief of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, told USA Today Italian doctors discovered the symptom known as “COVID toes” in March 2020. However, it was only after experts in America were made aware of the odd symptom that they began noticing an increasing number of cases in the U.S. According to Northwestern University, COVID toes present as purple, blue, or red lesions on the feet, toes, and sometimes fingers. Lautenbach says they are “typically painful to touch and could have a hot burning sensation.”
According to medical experts, “COVID toe” is actually the common term for a medical condition known as pernio or chilblains, which is the inflammation of small blood vessels in the skin that’s often caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. In some cases, it can lead to discoloration and painful blisters.
“The way I would think about it is it’s basically a side effect of how your own immune system is fighting the virus,” Esther Freeman, MD, PhD, principal investigator for the COVID-19 Dermatology Registry and associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s part of our body’s response to the response to the virus. It’s almost too much of a good thing.”
Freeman explains that doctors aren’t sure exactly how prevalent COVID toes are, but some studies have pointed to them being more common than is realized—especially among healthy teens and young adults. She also noted that symptom doesn’t typically appear until one to four weeks after someone becomes infected, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Freeman says that most cases of COVID toes will resolve themselves without the need for any kind of special medical attention. She also recommends keeping both the core and the extremities warm to stop the condition from flaring up and to seek the help of a dermatologist if the pain becomes unbearable or the issue doesn’t get better over time.
But still, she said there was one way to ensure you never have to suffer the symptom at all. “The best way to avoid COVID toes is to get vaccinated,” Freeman told The Wall Street Journal.