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Research says coronavirus could cause heart damage, worrying for athletes

(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt, File)

PHOENIX — A recent study showed that coronavirus could cause heart inflammation, which could be especially worrying for young athletes, according to experts at Banner Health.

Research published by bioRxiv showed that some COVID-19 survivors had evidence of heart inflammation after recovering from the virus.

“COVID-related myocarditis is a real entity, meaning that people have an infection with COVID-19, and it results in a viral infection, or an inflammatory response in the heart that potentially can cause arrhythmias or structural damage to the heart,” Dr. Steven Erickson, director for Banner’s University Sports Medicine and Concussion Specialists, said in an interview Wednesday.

Cardiologists are recommending student-athletes who had coronavirus symptoms for more than three days see a doctor get an EKG to screen for myocarditis, which causes inflammation of the heart muscle.

Myocarditis can affect the heart’s ability to pump, causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms, which can be dangerous for athletes who play competitive sports.

“We are seeing patients with signs of inflammation and scar formation in their heart even after recovery,” Banner Children’s pediatric cardiologist Dr. Michael Perez said.

Perez said parents should watch for symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, decreased energy levels or passing out.

Experts are also recommending that anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is returning to sports should be symptom free for 14 days and see their primary care physician.

Erickson said athletes coming back to sports after being on hiatus because of the virus should acclimate and ramp up back to where they’re used to competing.

“If athletes want to participate in a team sport, they need to do everything right off the field and on the field to try to prevent them from getting COVID-19,” Erickson said.

Erickson added that includes practicing proper hand washing, masking wearing and not going into large group situations.

“Everybody wants to get back to their normal lives and normal exercise routine and playing on teams, but with education, and make sure that we take the appropriate precautions, so we don’t end up with some long-term issue,” Erickson said.

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