Jul 20, 2020
Cardiac Screenings Key to NBA Safety Protocols

As the National Basketball Association (NBA) continues to ramp up ahead of its modified playoff format in the bubble of Disney World in Orlando, FL, sports medicine professionals insist on cardiac screening for players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

Among the safety requirements for a player to safely return to action following a positive test are isolation periods, absence of symptoms, two negative tests that come at least 24 hours apart, and cardiac screenings.

A recent article from USA Today outlined why players must undergo a cardiac screening before returning to the hardwood.

Photo: Chip Griffin / Creative Commons

“The concern is really an extension of what all of the professional teams are doing already, and that’s protecting their athletes from cardiac events more so than they have in the last five years or so,” cardiologist Matthew Martinez told USA TODAY Sports. “That extension now is with COVID-19 because initial reports said this had a high prevalence of involving hospitalized patients. Those were sicker patients and about 30% were reported to have cardiac involvement. That was what really tipped things off.”

USA Today pointed to a study published in the European Heart Journal that showed 55 percent of 1,216 patients from 69 countries displayed “abnormal changes to the way the heart was pumping, with around one in seven showing evidence of severe dysfunction.”

Two significant issues Martinez, the National Basketball Players Association consulting cardiologist, is concerned about myocarditis — the inflammation of the heart muscle — and clotting.

The NBA’s cardiac screening is a three-pronged approach, according to USA Today: troponin testing — which can detect heart injury in the blood; electrocardiogram — which measures heart function; and an echocardiogram — which generates images of the heart to assess left ventricular function.

» ALSO SEE: NFHS-AMSSM Releases Guidance in Assessing Cardiac Issues

“All three have to be done, and it’s really a comprehensive way to screen for active inflammation or damage to the muscle as well as perhaps a prior episode,” Martinez told USA Today.

Included in the evaluation are players who have not tested positive but have showed symptoms related to COVID-19 in the last three months.

To read the full story from USA Today on the NBA’s cardiac screening protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic, click here

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