Inflammatory heart disease among professional athletes who've had COVID-19 rare, study finds

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Inflammatory heart diseases such as myocarditis and pericarditis are rare among professional athletes who have had COVID-19, according to a study published March 4 in JAMA Cardiology.

Researchers used return-to-play cardiac screening, which included troponin testing, electrocardiography and resting echocardiography to determine whether professional league athletes with a prior COVID-19 infection could resume play. If results from those tests were abnormal, athletes then underwent cardiac MRIs and/or stress echocardiography. The testing was performed between May and October. 

Among 789 athletes, five athletes, or 0.6 percent, had cardiac MRIs that suggested inflammatory heart disease, which prevented them from returning to play. Of those five, three had myocarditis and two had pericarditis, according to the findings. 

The rest of the athletes with a prior COVID-19 infection from Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Football League and the men's and women's National Basketball Association were cleared to resume playing professional sports. 

"Using expert consensus [return-to-play] screening recommendations for athletes testing positive for COVID-19, few cases of inflammatory heart disease were detected and safe return to professional sport activity has thus far been achieved," the study authors said. 

The study acknowledged several conflict of interest disclosures, including a few researchers who served as consultants to the sports leagues or were employed by them during the study period. 

To view the full research, click here.

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