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Most Athletes With Heart Problems After COVID Can Return to Play

SATURDAY, OCT. 31, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- COVID-19 may cause heart damage, which can be especially concerning to athletes eager to return to play as soon as they can.

Myocarditis -- inflammation in the heart usually caused by a viral infection -- can lead to sudden death during exercise. With that in mind, the American College of Cardiology came up with some safety recommendations in May, which have now been revised.

"This new set of recommendations is based on my and my fellow authors' clinical experience treating athletes with COVID-19 over the past few months," said senior author Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the cardiovascular performance program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The new guidelines cut down on unnecessary testing while detecting "athletes at increased risk of adverse cardiac events attributable to the virus during their return to sports," he said in a hospital news release.

Baggish's team found that athletes with mild or no symptoms of COVID-19 did not have signs of heart injury. Athletes like these don't need detailed screening, the group said. How many athletes with COVID-19 develop heart problems isn't known, but the group said those who have moderate to severe coronavirus symptoms should be screened.

The team also said that cardiac MRI may not always be necessary before return to play after COVID-19.

According to lead author Dr. Jonathan Kim, the new recommendations should "guide the process of determining who requires more detailed cardiac screening and ensure that all athletes post-COVID-19 infection should have a slow and gradual return to training with close monitoring of persistent symptoms, regardless of the severity of infection." Kim is chief of cardiology sports at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

The recommendations were included in a special report published Oct. 26 in JAMA Cardiology.

More information

For more on COVID-19, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, Oct. 29, 2020

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