Report: Heart Condition Linked to COVID-19 Found in Multiple Power 5 Athletes

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 10, 2020

A Nike football is placed on the field before an NCAA college football game between Nebraska and Purdue, in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Nati Harnik/Associated Press

As university and conference administrators weigh the fate of a 2020 fall college football season, the heart condition myocarditis—which may be linked to the coronavirus—"has been found in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes and among several other athletes in other conferences," according to ESPN's Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was ruled out for the 2020 MLB season after doctors found he was suffering from myocarditis after testing positive for COVID-19.

From the outset, older populations appeared to be more at risk during the pandemic. That has led some to downplay the danger posed to the health of college and professional athletes as sports began returning across the United States.

Rodriguez's diagnosis underscored the magnitude of the pandemic, though, and the report from Lavigne and Schlabach drove the point home further. They noted myocarditis "can cause heart damage and sudden cardiac arrest" if untreated and is often caused by a viral infection.

The viability of a college football season in the fall has come into significant doubt in recent weeks.

The Mid-American Conference canceled all fall sports already, and Stadium's Brett McMurphy reported the Mountain West is taking the same step.

The Power Five conferences are clearly the biggest potential dominoes to fall since they have the bulk of the best teams and players in college football.

According to Dan Patrick, the Big Ten and Pac-12 are planning to announce a cancellation on Tuesday, with more Power Five conferences to follow:

Dan Patrick Show @dpshow

DP was told an hour ago that the Big 10 and Pac 12 will cancel their football seasons tomorrow... The ACC and the Big 12 are on the fence.. And the SEC is trying to get teams to join them for a season. Watch live: https://t.co/sMaeXQkLfl https://t.co/oSUNGMTEqw

Multiple U.S. leagues have shown the utility of using one or two central locations to stage games. Players and staffers can be closely monitored, and the exposure to parties from outside of the bubble can be limited. That, in turn, significantly curtails the spread of COVID-19.

The idea of setting up a bubble for college football proves troublesome for two reasons.

One is that even limiting the group to Power Five conferences would present a wealth of logistical hurdles in terms of finding locations and housing for all of the players and coaches.

The second is that doing so would seemingly be an admission by the NCAA that student-athletes aren't traditional students, thus undercutting the notion of amateurism.