Will athletes recovered from COVID face career-ending myocarditis or other heart problems?

Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez has inflammation in the heart muscle after developing COVID-19. Credit: Getty Images
Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez has inflammation in the heart muscle after developing COVID-19. Credit: Getty Images

[For] athletes participating in professional, collegiate, high school or even recreational sports, significant unanswered questions remain about the aftereffects of a covid infection.

Chief among those is whether the coronavirus can damage their hearts, putting them at risk for lifelong complications and death. Preliminary data from early in the pandemic suggested that as many as 1 in 5 people with covid-19 could end up with heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, which has been linked to abnormal heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death.

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Doctors are now waiting for the release of data pooled from thousands of college athletes screened after having covid last year. The American Heart Association and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine have created a national registry to track covid cases and heart disease in NCAA athletes, with more than 3,000 athletes enrolled, while the Big Ten conference is running its own registry.

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That registry data may eventually help parse who is most at risk for heart complications, target who needs to be screened and improve the reliability of the tests. Doctors may discover that some symptoms are better indicators of risk than others. And down the road, genetic testing or other types of tests could identify who is most vulnerable.

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