The Southeastern Conference was right. Seven months ago, I wrote an article trying to give both sides of the medical debate on the risks of inflammatory heart disease associated with COVID-19. The Big Ten was not initially comfortable playing sports because of the supposed risks (and to their credit, later reversed field), and the SEC physicians were.
Now a medical study involving the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, WNBA and MLS reports a very low incidence — well under 1% — of combined inflammatory heart disease, including myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation) and pericarditis (heart lining inflammation). A group of 789 professional athletes who tested positive for COVID were comprehensively tested, and only three had myocarditis and two had pericarditis.
Some medical experts opine that elite athletes are more susceptible to developing myocarditis after infections in general. If true, this is great news for high school athletes, weekend warriors and the general population, as the prevalence of COVID-related heart issue would be expected to be a fraction of a percent for them.
Let’s not dismiss inflammatory heart disease, as it is real and could cause arrhythmia and lead to sudden death. Although relatively rare, it is a known complication of viral infections, including influenza, coronavirus and other infections processes, and all physicians need to screen/test for it. We clearly still do not know the full long-term effects of COVID and only time will tell, but so far, the news has been positive in terms of heart complications.
The early fears of COVID-related myocarditis seem to be unfounded. The SEC (and other sports leagues) were correct. With appropriate testing and screening, inflammatory heart disease should not be a reason not to play sports.