The study, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, was written by the top medical officials in these leagues and grew out of the weekly telephone conferences these officials began holding at the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
“We felt it was very important to share our best practices, as we all struggled with the same things,” said Gary Green, medical director of MLB and one of the study’s authors. “Once we realized we had these numbers [of cases]we started talking to the different cardiologists who work with our various leagues and player associations to come up with a collaboration. ”
The study, conducted using data from athletes who tested positive between May and October last year, found that athletes developed severe heart disease at a rate far lower than the general population. Although only 0.6 percent (five of 789) of practitioners were found to have myocarditis or pericarditis, these conditions were found in more than 7 percent of all covid-positive patients, according to a study published in Circulation, a journal of American Heart Association, last year.
“We did this because at the beginning of [the pandemic], it was clear that people who were hospitalized with covid had a significant significance [incidence] of heart disease, ”Green said in a telephone interview. “And we wanted to make sure that the athletes who won, came back to their sport and did it in a safe way. … We wanted to see: Is it safe for [athletes] to return, and what is the risk? What we found is that the risk is very, very low. ”
Of the 789 athletes who tested positive for coronavirus, 460 (or 58.3 percent) were considered symptomatic, while the rest were asymptomatic. Only 30 athletes, 23 of whom came from the symptomatic group, were referred for further cardiac testing, and only five of them were diagnosed with inflammatory heart disease: three with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, and two with pericarditis or inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart.
These five were kept out of playing their sport for varying lengths of time, and some have since returned without incident.
“As of the end of December 2020, no clinical cardiac events have occurred in any of the athletes who have undergone cardiac screening and resumed full professional sports activity,”
The study did not mention professional athletes who were found to have heart disease after being diagnosed with covid-19 due to privacy laws. But at least two have been publicly identified in news reports: Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who missed the entire MLB season in 2020 after being diagnosed with myocarditis but attending spring training ahead of the 2021 season, and Buffalo Bills’ Tommy Sweeney. , who was already out with a broken foot when he was diagnosed with myocarditis in November, and ended the 2020 season.
The study notes its inherent limitations, including its retroactive effect and lack of a uniform method of screening and diagnosing subjects; the fact that it was written before the arrival of newer, potentially more contagious and potent coronavirus variants; and the youth and the general suitability of the professional group, in relation to the general public. In addition, 98.5 percent of the subjects were men.
“We wanted to be very careful [to say] that we do not believe we can extrapolate this to everyone else, ”Green said.
Nevertheless, the authors of the study achieved their primary mission, according to Green.
“One of the goals of all the leagues has been to contribute to the literature and understanding of covid,” he said. This study, he added, “does it.”