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Cardiac Screening for Athletes with Moderate to Severe COVID-19 Infection

DECEMBER 28, 2020

COVID-19 has been linked to heart muscle inflammation known as myocarditis. On December 5, 2020 a virtual conference held by the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports medicine and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine further supported prior advisories to urge COVID-19 survivors to seek clinical evaluation before returning to physical activity.

At the end of October, The American College of Cardiology urged heart screenings on all athletes and other “highly active” people who had been ill with symptomatic COVID-19 before returning to exercise. Their recommendation included a tailored return-to-play advice for competitive sports athletes, high school athletes, recreational “masters athletes”, people over age 35 who train for or participate in running, swimming, cycling, weightlifting or other competitions designed for adults in their age category.

Overall, the recommendations endorse physician consultations and heart screenings using electrocardiograms, echocardiograms and troponin blood tests for athletes who had moderate to severe COVID-19. Cardiac MRIs may be warranted if other heart tests are abnormal or symptoms persist. At this time, cardiac screening isn’t recommended for people who had cases that were asymptomatic or mild. However, there have been some observational reports in Germany and the U.S. indicating heart injury in people with asymptomatic or milder cases, but the full extent of any damage and the implications are still unclear at this time.