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Study links COVID-19 to inflamed heart muscles in athletes

Posted September 11, 2020 11:06 p.m. EDT
Updated September 12, 2020 7:04 a.m. EDT

— A new COVID-19 study is linking athletes to inflamed heart muscles.

Scientists at Ohio State conducted research on 26 athletes and found that four who had either mild or asymptomatic COVID cases had signs of myocarditis, known as inflammation of the heart.

“When you have the condition and the heart is inflamed called myocarditis intense sports can actually pre-expose you to life-threatening complications, abnormal heart rates, that can kill you," said Christopher Kelly, a cardiologist with UNC Health Care.

Without regular testing, an athlete can be playing with COVID-19 and show no signs. On the inside, that athlete's heart muscles can be enlarged.

“What I would recommend, if you are playing competitive sports that gets your heart rate up to a high level like football, track and tennis, you should be tested for COVID regularly, and if you test positive, you need to stop playing and you need to see a cardiologist before you go back to play, even if symptoms are medium to absent,” Kelly said.

Parents also need to be mindful, especially for children in Little League and other sports at school.

“Look at what your kids organization is doing to keep them safe in the locker room," Kelly said. "How much contact is happening on the field, and what kind of testing program is in place if they are taking reasonable caution.”

If you've tested positive for COVID-19, you should also ask your doctor about your heart.

"It affects the heart much more than other virus do," Kelly said. "We have to assume anyone with COVID has problems with their heart until proven otherwise."

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