Study: College Athletes at Higher Risk of Heart Problems After Having Had COVID-19

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 27, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - DECEMBER 23: The Big Ten logo on the floor during a college basketball game and the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Illinois Fighting Illini on December 23, 2020 at the Bryce Joyce Center in University Park, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

A recent study of Big Ten athletes found a higher rate of myocarditis diagnoses tied to COVID-19 than previously documented in another study, according to ESPN's Paula Lavigne.

As part of a study published in JAMA Cardiology, researchers performed cardiac MRIs on 1,597 Big Ten athletes who had tested positive for COVID-19. Of that group, 37 had myocarditis, an inflammatory heart condition.

That percentage (2.3) is more than triple the rate from an April study for Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association. In that investigation, 21 of the 3,018 athletes (0.7 percent) showed signs of heart inflammation.

Because COVID-19 was a novel virus before it spread to pandemic levels, medical professionals remain unsure as to its long-term effects on those who once carried it.

Dr. Lawrence Rink, a cardiologist who has worked as a team doctor at Indiana University for 40 years, also explained how the JAMA Cardiology study also raised questions about how to examine the possible risk of heart conditions such as myocarditis.

"Unfortunately, from our study we show that symptoms do not help us very much," Rink said (via Lavigne). "I won't say symptoms are of no value. But they did not pick up the majority of our cases of what we were calling myocarditis."

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez missed the entire 2020 MLB season after being diagnosed with myocarditis.

The left-hander explained to the New York Times' James Wagner how before realizing he had COVID-19 or myocarditis that he "felt like I was 100 years old where you need help getting out of bed." The 28-year-old also struggled to hold down any foods or fluids, which caused him to lose 20 pounds in 10 days.

Even for athletes who aren't flagged for heart inflammation, the effects of COVID-19 can linger well after their symptoms subside.

Boston Celtics star Evan Fournier said this month he felt as though he was playing through a concussion at times after returning to the court last month. Celtics teammate Jayson Tatum revealed last month he was using an inhaler before games to open his lungs more after being diagnosed with the coronavirus in January.