The connection between myocarditis, COVID-19 and sports


Life as the world knew it was put on hold in the winter of 2019-20. The outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that began in China soon spread across the globe, forcing many governments to hit the prover­bial pause button.

As the world paused in the hopes of preventing the poten­tially deadly virus from spread­ing, professional and amateur athletic events were canceled or postponed. In March, the or­ganizing body behind the 2020 Summer Olympics postponed the global sports competition until July 2021, while profession­al sports leagues, including the English Premier League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, all postponed their seasons. Those seasons eventually resumed in the late spring or summer of 2020, but fears concerning the health of athletes persisted in spite of the return to action.

One of the more notable con­cerns about competing in athlet­ics during the pandemic is the potential connection between COVID-19 and the heart condi­tion myocarditis.

According to Hackensack Me­ridian Health, two studies pub­lished in the journal JAMA Car­diology revealed that patients who have recovered from CO­VID-19 may show signs of heart damage. That damage may be present weeks or even months after recovery. Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who began the shortened MLB sea­son on the injured list after test­ing positive for COVID-19, ulti­mately decided to sit out the en­tire season after being diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflamma­tion of the heart that can have long-term consequences.

Concerns about myocarditis was behind some of the fear as­sociated with playing the 2020 college football season. In mid- August, Brian Hainline, MD, the chief medical officer of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, acknowledged he was aware of a dozen cases of myocarditis among NCAA ath­letes. Concerns about myocar­ditis were a factor in the deci­sion by the Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences to postpone their 2020 seasons in August. It’s important to note that many viral infections can cause myo­carditis, and researchers point out that mild cases of heart inflammation can get better on their own. However, it’s vital that athletes and their families recognize the potential threat posed by myocarditis and other potential heart-related side ef­fects of COVID-19. For example, Hackensack Meridian Health Notes that COVID-19 can make existing heart conditions worse.

The connection between myocarditis, COVID-19 and sports


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