A study of 167 college athletes who underwent cardiac screening after recovering from COVID-19 found that about 4 percent of them, or five athletes, had heart abnormalities but no heart damage or inflammation, according to a press release about the study, which was published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. None of the athletes experienced issues returning to practices and competition, the report said.
The results are reassuring for medical experts, college leaders and athletics officials, who were concerned about the possibility of myocarditis, a heart complication caused by inflammation and scarring of the heart muscle, which doctors feared could occur while recovering from COVID-19.
A survey of athletes in the Big Ten Conference who recovered from COVID-19 last year found that nearly 15 percent had myocarditis. Exercising with myocarditis can increase the risk of cardiac arrest and sudden death among athletes, and the complication contributed to the decision by some intercollegiate conferences, including the Big Ten, to postpone fall 2020 sports.
But the study published Monday found no such conditions in athletes and backed up a previous observational study of about 3,000 athletes who had recovered from COVID-19, also published last month in Circulation. The athletes had “no adverse cardiac events” after becoming infected with the virus, which indicates “a safe return-to-play for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic athletes without additional cardiac testing,” said a press release about the study, which was published April 17.