Ohio State study: 30% of student athletes have heart damage linked to COVID-19

In a study published in September, researchers from Ohio State University found that out of more than two dozen athletes from the university who tested positive for COVID-19, 30% had cellular heart damage and 15% showed signs of heart inflammation caused by a condition known as myocarditis.

After mapping the hearts of 26 Ohio State University athletes using a process known as cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), researchers found that not only 15% of students exhibited the rare heart condition but 30% showed cellular damage. 

"Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging has the potential to identify a high-risk cohort for adverse outcomes and may, importantly, risk-stratify athletes for safe participation," study authors wrote. "Recent studies have raised concerns of myocardial inflammation after recovery from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), even in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients."

According to researchers, "myocarditis is a significant cause of sudden cardiac death in competitive athletes."

Acoording to the Mayo Clinic, myocarditis is typically caused by a viral infection with symptoms ranging from chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, to a negative impact on heart rate and rhythm as seen in conditions such as arrhythmias.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tweeted on Sept. 17, "Heart conditions like myocarditis are associated with some cases of #COVID19. Severe cardiac damage is rare but has occurred, even in young, healthy people."

Medical experts have previously warned the public of links between the novel coronavirus and heart damage, especially in young people. 

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health explained that while COVID-19 most commonly impacts the lungs as it is a respiratory illness, damage to the lungs can lead to serious heart complications.

Because the heart needs oxygen to function properly, COVID-19 can damage the lungs, preventing enough oxygen from reaching the heart muscle and further restricting oxygen from reaching other important tissues in the body. 

A separate report by a group of U.S. doctors published in the medical journal JACC warned of the potential of heart damage to children from the novel coronavirus. 

The report detailed the case of a 2-month-old infant diagnosed with COVID-19 who experienced a myocardial injury as well as a type of heart failure most commonly seen in adults.

"Most children with Covid-19 are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, but our case shows the potential for reversible myocardial (heart) injury in infants," said Dr. Madhu Sharma, the report’s lead author. 

In a news release published on Dec. 2, the group of doctors said the infant recovered with normal heart function and was eventually discharged with no heart failure medications.

"The presentation and clinical course of this patient mirrors four case reports of acute myocardial injury reported in adult patients with COVID-19," said Sharma.

Another study published on June 25 in the journal Cell Reports Medicine found thatCOVID-19 has also been known to instigate inflammatory responses in the body which can negatively affect the function of one’s heart and brain.

According to the study, researchers observed SARS-CoV-2 infecting human heart cells that were grown from stem cells in a lab. Within 72 hours of infection, the virus managed to spread and replicate, killing the heart cells.
The researchers brought up the particularly alarming possibility that if COVID-19 can can infect the heart cells in a laboratory setting, it could possibly infect those specific organs, prompting the need for a "cardiac-specific antiviral drug screen program."