This recent study in JAMA is a great example how a single case does not tell the full story of what is happening, which has been a frequent occurrence in the press over the past year. As we have more data (e.g. larger datasets) and researchers have access to those data, we should be seeing more “corrections” to some of the now popular myths about COVID-19 as appropriate study designs are applied to assess a research question.
This study is about athletes and heart disease and a new protocol used to assess “return to play”. There are a number of important limitations (the study was all men, there were some time lags in testing for some athletes, the protocol may not be realistic for non-elite teams to implement). Also, none of the players had severe COVID (which although not a finding is interesting in itself vis a vis the relationship between underlying health status and severity of disease).
But contrary to what has been reported in the media or earlier “observational” or “small cohort” studies, this is good news about COVID, heart health and athletes.
From STAT today
Few cases of inflammatory heart disease recorded in athletes after Covid-19 infection
It’s alarming to hear about post-Covid heart damage in young people presumably at the top of their chosen games. A new study analyzing the heart health of professional athletes returning to play after Covid-19 infection concludes that only 5 of 789 players had signs of inflammatory heart disease. None of the North American football, soccer, basketball, or hockey players had severe Covid and 329 had few or no symptoms, but blood tests for markers of heart muscle damage, EKGs, and echocardiograms were abnormal in 30 players, 5 of whom had inflammation that showed up on follow-up cardiac MRIs. They all eventually safely returned to play. These results differ from earlier MRI-based reports, which the authors say may mean cardiac MRIs work better downstream than as a screening tool.