Warning: COVID-19 and Athletes’ Hearts


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — As schools are getting back to full in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year, school sports are also making a comeback. But before your teen gets back to the swing of things, will you get your child the COVID-19 vaccine? A survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation says nearly one in four parents will definitely not. Ivanhoe has the details on why that can spell trouble, especially for student athletes.

There are more than eight million high school student athletes in the U.S. Of those students …

“One in 300 will carry a form of cardiovascular disease that predisposes them to have a risk of sudden cardiac arrest,” explained Gul Dadlani, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Nemours Children’s Hospital.

And having COVID could put them at greater risk including those who never had heart problems before.

“COVID can affect the heart and you don’t have to be that symptomatic to have issues within your heart muscles,” continue Dr. Dadlani.

A study from The Ohio State University found 15 percent of athletes who had mild symptoms of COVID, or were asymptomatic, showed signs of heart inflammation as they recovered. Overexerting the heart while it’s inflamed can lead to major complications, sudden cardiac arrest, and even death. Watch out for chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness after the quarantine period.

“Those are always red flags that warrant a follow-up with their pediatrician and/or pediatric cardiologist,” Dr. Dadlani stated.

Also, make a graduated return to play. Don’t push yourself to practice or play right after COVID recovery. Check with your doctor to see if the heart inflammation has cleared before returning to play.

Another recommendation is to perform a heart EKG on athletes before they even take part in team sports. This screening is typically not included in a sport physical but doing one may find heart abnormalities that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest or even death. Recent research shows a rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine is heart inflammation, but CDC officials say the benefits of getting the COVID vaccine still outweighs the risks.


Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor.

REPORT #2878

BACKGROUND: Studies have shown the COVID-19 virus primarily attacks the lungs but can also cause the body to produce an overactive immune response leading to increased inflammation throughout the body. Myocarditis can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood and send electrical signals. Severe forms of myocarditis can lead to more serious problems like abnormal heart rhythms, heart muscle disease, and heart failure. According to one study out of the University of Frankford in Germany, more than half of patients studied who had COVID-19 were found to have ongoing cardiac inflammation. Researchers noted that more than two-thirds of the patients who participated in the study had a mild illness and recovered at home. It’s important to know that the abnormalities seen in the study can happen with other viral infections and may be temporary. Many cases of mild heart inflammation may not show symptoms and get better on their own.

(Source: https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/08/13/how-does-covid-19-affect-the-heart/)

ATHLETES AND COVID: Studies suggest that approximately 20 percent of patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 develop some type of heart damage, but the impact of mild or asymptomatic infections on the heart is not known. Viral infections can cause inflammatory heart disease, or inflammation in the heart muscle or the lining of the heart. The condition can trigger abnormal heart rhythms and accounts for approximately 5 percent of cases of sudden cardiac death in athletes. “Athletes have a unique risk because of demands on the heart from strenuous exercise, which can increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms in those with underlying inflammatory heart disease,” says David Engel, MD, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. The study included data from 789 professional athletes who were screened for post-COVID-19 cardiac inflammation. None had severe symptoms, and approximately 40 percent had very mild or no symptoms. Abnormal cardiac screening results raising concern for potential COVID-19 associated cardiac injury were found in 3.8 percent of the athletes. Further assessment with diagnostic cardiac MRI and cardiac stress tests ultimately found heart inflammation in only five of the athletes.

(Source: https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/professional-athletes-heart-risk-after-mild-covid-19-very-low-finds-study)

RESEARCH INTO ATHLETE’S HEARTS: A study in JAMA Cardiology shared the results of a screening program involving professional athletes across six major sports in the U.S. and Canada. Out of nearly 800 athletes who tested positive for COVID-19, 0.6 percent later appeared to develop inflammatory heart disease. A similar study of college athletes was published in the journal Cardiology. Out of about 3,000 students who tested positive for the virus and underwent a cardiac exam, 0.7 percent seemed to have heart inflammation or other damage related to COVID-19. None of the athletes seemed to develop serious problems like heart attack as a result, though one person did suffer a cardiac event that was deemed unrelated to their infection. The findings of these two recent studies suggest that athletes don’t require intense scrutiny and proactive screening for heart issues after they develop COVID-19. “The bigger message is for the athletes who only have mild symptoms or no symptoms; it’s not clear you need to do any testing at all,” says co-author Jonathan Drezner, director of the University of Washington Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology. “And I would be comfortable simply doing a good review of symptoms and making sure when they get back to play, they feel well.”

(Source: https://gizmodo.com/what-to-know-about-the-research-into-athletes-hearts-an-1846739103)

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Margot Winick, Public Relations



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