The extremely good news in this study of professional athletes, published in JAMA Cardiology, is that exceptionally few athletes who caught COVID-19 suffered inflammatory heart disease, and among those who underwent cardiac screening, the effects will not be severe enough to prevent them from playing their sports.
In this cross-sectional study of RTP cardiac testing performed on 789 professional athletes with COVID-19 infection, imaging evidence of inflammatory heart disease that resulted in restriction from play was identified in 5 athletes (0.6%). No adverse cardiac events occurred in the athletes who underwent cardiac screening and resumed professional sport participation.
Nearly 70 NFL players opted out of the 2020 season, citing their own health issues or the health issues of family members. Professional athletes are, by and large, young men in peak physical health, and the survival rates for that demographic are extremely high. But there was always the small but real chance of a player having lingering health issues because of a coronavirus infection. Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez chose to miss almost all of the 2020 season as he recovered from a heart-inflammation issue related to his bout with virus. Many athletes looked at Rodriguez’s experience and wondered if the same could happen to them.
Because professional and collegiate athletes are almost all young and healthy, they will be at the back of the line for vaccination. Nonetheless, they should have access to vaccines by summer — and this study suggests that even if they catch COVID-19, the long-term health effects should be minimal, particularly if they undergo cardiac screening.