In what seems to be an endless battle against the coronavirus, a new revelation reported by ESPN found that a rare heart condition, commonly found among athletes, has been linked to the virus that causes COVID-19. Myocarditis, the inflammation of the heart muscle, has been found in dozens of athletes from the Power 5 conferences who have previously had both low-grade and extreme versions of the coronavirus. Just like any muscle in the body, when one works out a specific muscle it will get stronger and larger. The same goes for the heart, and when the heart is “worked out,” it will get larger. When the heart becomes inflamed, the organs will weaken which can lead to cardiac arrest. This disease is found to be more prevalent in athletes because their hearts are often under strain.
One of the most frightening factors associated with myocarditis is that many people do not show symptoms, and the only way to be sure the disease is present is through an MRI. This has forced many colleges and universities to rethink the return of fall sports because not only is the disease so easy to overlook, but the likelihood of colleges and universities figuring out a way to give thousands of student-athletes an MRI seems nearly impossible. Without clarifying what specific actions have been taken, the Mid-American Conference is the first conference that has begun “screening” their student-athletes for myocarditis and canceled all fall athletics. At the University of Washington, the department of athletics reported that they have begun testing their athletes for the disease through a series of tests. It begins with an electrogram, then a blood test, next a heart ultrasound and lastly an MRI. If the tests come back positive, the timeline of recovery has been said to be anywhere from three to six months for athletes.
With the world so unaware of the long-term effects of COVID-19 on those who have had the disease, the recent news surrounding myocarditis have sparked more concern about what might happen to people in the upcoming years, especially young athletes.
Lewis & Clark requires that their incoming athletes take a multitude of tests to make sure they are healthy. For instance, NCAA athletes are required to complete a sickle cell blood test in addition to watching informational videos regarding the disease. The sickle cell trait affects 100,000 Americans every year, while myocarditis affects 400,000 a year. These facts pose the question of whether colleges and universities, like LC, should test student-athletes for myocarditis, since it likely affects more students than sickle cell anemia. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. and other diseases like influenza that can be linked to myocarditis still at large, colleges are questioning whether it is safe for student-athletes to be practicing and working out currently.