Heart complications among athletes rare after COVID-19 infection, study finds

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Athletes are unlikely to develop heart complications associated with a COVID-19 infection, indicating they can safely return to play without cardiac testing, according to research published April 17 in the American Heart Association's Circulation journal. 

Researchers used the Outcomes Registry for Cardiac Conditions in Athletes, a national database that tracks COVID-19 cases and heart-related complications among NCAA athletes, and identified 3,018 athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 and underwent cardiac testing.

Of those patients, 2,820 underwent at least one element of cardiac "triad" testing (12-lead electrocardiography, troponin, and/or transthoracic echocardiography) followed by cardiac magnetic resonance if necessary. 

The overall prevalence of probable or definite cardiac involvement from a COVID-19 infection was 0.4-1.5 percent, according to the study. Those with cardiopulmonary symptoms were 3.1 times more likely to have established cardiac invovlement. 

No adverse heart complications were reported among those in which testing indicated definite, probable or possible SARS-CoV-2 cardiac involvement. 

"Most athletes with no symptoms or mild illness from SARS-CoV-2 can return to sports safely without additional cardiac testing as long as they feel good on return to exercise and don't have cardiopulmonary symptoms like chest pain," said Jonathan Drezner, MD, co-principal investigator of the study and director of the UW Medicine Center for Sports Cardiology in Seattle. 

To view the full study, click here


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