Rare heart condition linked to COVID-positive athletes

by Molly Reed

Tuesday, August 11th 2020

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - The Big Ten conference made the decision Tuesday afternoon to cancel fall sports.

Part of the other reason Big Ten leaders made that decision was that at least five athletes in the conference were diagnosed with a heart condition that can be caused by viruses like COVID, ESPN reported.

While researchers are just starting to link it, myocarditis is one of the after-effects of COVID that doctors said could be deadly, especially for athletes.

Several college athletes, besides those five in the Big Ten, have also tested positive for it and professional athletes, such as Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.

"They would show signs of cardiac symptoms, either dizziness or chest pains or shortness of breath," said Dr. Zakaria Sheikhaden, a Cardiologist with Premier Cardiovascular Institute.

Sheikhaden said the disease is usually caused by viral infections and left undiagnosed, could lead to sudden cardiac arrest, which can be deadly.

Catching it can also be tough and costly.

"Through an EKG as well as echo cardiogram which is an ultrasound of the heart just to look for muscle injury or structural injury to the heart," said Sheikhaden.

Depending on the level of cardiac testing, it can cost patients anywhere from $50 to $500.

If caught, though, most athletes can return to play after resting for three to six months. In others, it can cause permanent damage.

"Not every patient who gets COVID has the risk of having myocarditis or complications from the cardiac perspective," said Sheikhaden, "I hate to say it but we're still figuring out things but there's definitely a risk for a lot of these student athletes"

Looking out for another heart condition is just another new duty athletic trainers have added to their plate.

"We're helping to make sure they're social distancing on the sidelines. If they're not actively participating they're wearing masks," said Michelle Reinsmith, an athletic trainer with Kettering Health Network.

Reinsmith added they also check temperatures and keep a close eye on athletes' symptoms.

"You get to know your athletes very well since you spend every day with them that you're working with them with sports," she said.

While sudden cardiac arrest symptoms are always something trainers look out for, the new research about myocarditis is something Reinsmith said they'll have to keep a close eye on.

"Everything is still developing, it's all so new. We might not know those results for a while now," she said.