BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Doctors and researchers from UAB and around the country are studying the links of COVID-19 and heart swelling in young athletes.
UAB researchers said swelling of the heart, a condition known as myocarditis, is fairly rare in young athletes; but there is evidence of a link between increased rates of myocarditis and COVID-19. A recent Ohio State University study indicated that 15 percent of athletes with COVID-19 had swelling of the heart.
“SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, has an affinity for the heart through ACE2 receptors, and this may be responsible for heart inflammation,” said Irfan Asif, M.D., a sports medicine physicians and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. “This could lead to myocarditis in the heart, which could be deadly for athletes who play sports with this condition.”
“We are working to link the Power 5 conferences with researchers at these universities to get a better understanding of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 on the heart,” Asif said.
Asif says a study in Germany indicated that as many as 60 percent of COVID patients had heart inflammation noted on cardiac MRI two months post-infection. The study needs to be confirmed in young athletes since the study was performed on older adults.
Even though the study looked at older adults, researchers said the findings are concerning.
“There are roughly 500,000 athletes who play collegiate sports, and about one in 50,000 dies from a health-related condition each year,” Asif said. “Myocarditis is one of the leading causes of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. Since we know that COVID-19 causes heart swelling, myocarditis could become a greater risk if not recognized quickly.”