Study suggests no long-term heart risks in elite athletes after COVID-19

September 12, 2023 / Player SafetySports Medicine
Athletes are prone to sports-induced cardiac effects; at the same time, maintaining cardiac integrity is a prerequisite for delivering high-end performance.

Since studies have implicated myocarditis in COVID-19 cases among young athletes, examining the long-term effects of playing sports after recovering from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is highly clinically relevant.

effectsHowever, cross-sectional studies mainly focused on the prevalence of cardiac aberrations and implemented return-to-sports (RTS) screening protocols, and prospective studies investigating longer-term outcomes of sports participation on cardiac health post-COVID-19 are lacking.

A recent story from detailed how researchers evaluated the long-term effects of resuming elite sports on cardiac health after recovering from COVID-19.

Below is an excerpt from the story.

Of 259 athletes recruited for COMMIT, 123 recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection, and 136 comprised the non-infected control group. SARS-CoV-2-infected athletes were younger and less likely to be of Caucasian ethnicity; moreover, 9% and 72% had cardiovascular and respiratory symptoms, respectively. These infected individuals also had higher resting heart rates; however, their cardiac and inflammatory markers and ECG categories were comparable to controls.

Based on pre- and post-infection CMR results, SARS-CoV-2 infection showed no detrimental effects on volumetric and functional CMR parameters of all athletes who resumed elite sports. Prevalence of perimyocardial involvement (SARS-CoV-2 cardiac sequelae) was extremely low (3%), with a temporally variable clinical presentation and course.

Only four SARS-CoV-2-infected athletes demonstrated pathological non-ischaemic patterns of myocardial LGE, with some athletes showing complete resolution of LGE, while others had persistent LGE but no signs of inflammation.

Even in ELITE athletes with cardiac sequelae who resumed competitive sports, damaging morphological alterations or ventricular arrhythmias were absent. Moreover, the authors noted no new de novo or adverse cardiac events in athletes over two years of follow-up, regardless of SARS-CoV-2-triggered cardiac issues at the baseline post-infection assessment.

Athletes who participate in elite sports constitute a distinctive phenotype to investigate the role of physical activity as a trigger for adverse cardiac remodeling post-COVID-19.

Consistent with previous findings, the present study showed that post-COVID-19 myocardial injury was low in athletes during the 26.7 months (long-term) study follow-up. More importantly, a prior SARS-CoV-2 infection did not lead to the cessation of a professional athletic career, regardless of the presence/absence of cardiac sequelae.

To read the full story from, click here.