Study: COVID Heart Damage Rare in College Athletes

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The American Heart Association recently released results of a study showing that post-COVID-19 heart damage is uncommon in college athletes.

The results of the study were reported in Circulation, which said that five of the 137 college athletes studied showed heart abnormalities on initial screening tests. “Further screening via cardiac MRI of the five athletes identified found no heart damage or inflammation,” the report reads. “After COVID-19 recovery, all athletes were able to resume their full training and competition regimens without any complications.”

“We were encouraged to find so few abnormal tests in these athletes as well as negative cardiac MRIs in those who did have an abnormal test during the initial screening, and no athlete had any problems after returning to exercise and sport,” said Benjamin S. Hendrickson, M.D., co-author and pediatric and congenital cardiologist with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics (cardiology) at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

The research was conducted by the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center from July 9, 2020 through October 21, 2020. Of the 137 college athletes, 68 percent were male and the average age was 20. On average, the athletes were evaluated 16 days after testing positive.

“Nearly half of the participants were African American students, nearly half were white students, and 7% were Hispanic students,” the study reads. “Of the 11 sports represented at three universities, more than a third of the athletes were football players, followed by dance, basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, soccer, cheer, track, volleyball and golf athletes.”

Eighty-two percent of the athletes had COVID-19 symptoms, which were mild for 68 percent of the athletes. None of the athletes in the study required treatment or hospitalization. Of the athletes, 58 percent lost smell/taste, 42 percent had a fever, 41 percent had a headache, 40 percent fatigue, 12 percent shortness of breath and 11 percent chest pain/tightness.

A study published in Circulation earlier this spring found “a low prevalence of cardiac involvement and a low risk of clinical events in short term follow-up” among collegiate student-athletes who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The study sampled more than 3,000 student-athletes who had tested positive for COVID-19. Those sampled underwent additional screenings for cardiac issues. Among those, 21 — or 0.7 percent — showed definite, probable or possible cardiac issues related to their infection with the virus.

Related content: Study: Athletes With COVID Rarely Develop Heart Issues

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