Apr 19, 2021
Study: Less Than 1% of COVID-Positive College Athletes Developed Heart Issues

According to a recent study of more than 3,000 college student-athletes who tested positive for COVID-19, less than one percent developed heart issues.

The study, released over the weekend in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, stated that they found so few instances of heart-related issues, like myocarditis, that future testing may only be used for athletes with specific symptoms.

Photo: CNU Sports / Creative Commons

The results found signs of possible, probable, or definite myocarditis, or heart inflammation, in 21 of 3,018 college student-athletes (0.7%) who tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report from ESPN.com. The study included male and female athletes from 42 colleges and institutions across 26 sports.

It’s a sigh of relief for college athletic departments as the NCAA works to have a relatively normal college sports year beginning in the Fall of 2021.

Dr. Jonathan Drezner, director of the University of Washington Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology and a co-principal investigator of the study, told ESPN.com the results will help colleges and the NCAA refine cardiac screening protocols for athletes who have tested positive for 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,” he said to ESPN.com. “And I would be comfortable simply doing a good review of symptoms and making sure when they get back to play, they feel well.”

The low prevalence of post-COVID-19 myocarditis in college athletes from the study, and the tie to moderate and cardiac symptoms, is similar to the findings of a larger-scale study of professional athletes released last month, according to ESPN.com.

Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the cardiovascular performance program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who was involved in both studies, told ESPN.com that the collegiate study had almost four times as many athletes, a third of whom were women (compared to just 1.5% in the professional athlete study), and provided more detail about symptoms.

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Baggish wrote in an email to ESPN.com that schools could use the results of the study to “do away with blanket testing for student-athletes with asymptomatic or mild disease assuming they fully recover and get back into exercise with no issues, [and] confine the costly and sometimes complicated cardiac testing to student-athletes with moderate or greater symptom burden or symptoms on return to exercise.”

Drezner added, “If you look around the nation, there are 8 million high school athletes with maybe an infection rate of 10%. College probably an infection rate of 20%. And we’re just not hearing about these adverse events. That’s also indirectly sort of reassuring.”

To read the full report from ESPN.com, click here

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