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Coronavirus Disease 2019 and the Athletic HeartEmerging Perspectives on Pathology, Risks, and Return to Play

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To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME
Abstract

Importance  Cardiac injury with attendant negative prognostic implications is common among patients hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection. Whether cardiac injury, including myocarditis, also occurs with asymptomatic or mild-severity COVID-19 infection is uncertain. There is an ongoing concern about COVID-19–associated cardiac pathology among athletes because myocarditis is an important cause of sudden cardiac death during exercise.

Observations  Prior to relaxation of stay-at-home orders in the US, the American College of Cardiology’s Sports and Exercise Cardiology Section endorsed empirical consensus recommendations advising a conservative return-to-play approach, including cardiac risk stratification, for athletes in competitive sports who have recovered from COVID-19. Emerging observational data coupled with widely publicized reports of athletes in competitive sports with reported COVID-19–associated cardiac pathology suggest that myocardial injury may occur in cases of COVID-19 that are asymptomatic and of mild severity. In the absence of definitive data, there is ongoing uncertainty about the optimal approach to cardiovascular risk stratification of athletes in competitive sports following COVID-19 infection.

Conclusions and Relevance  This report was designed to address the most common questions regarding COVID-19 and cardiac pathology in athletes in competitive sports, including the extension of return-to-play considerations to discrete populations of athletes not addressed in prior recommendations. Multicenter registry data documenting cardiovascular outcomes among athletes in competitive sports who have recovered from COVID-19 are currently being collected to determine the prevalence, severity, and clinical relevance of COVID-19–associated cardiac pathology and efficacy of targeted cardiovascular risk stratification. While we await these critical data, early experiences in the clinical oversight of athletes following COVID-19 infection provide an opportunity to address key areas of uncertainty relevant to cardiology and sports medicine practitioners.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: October 5, 2020.

Published Online: October 26, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2020.5890

Corresponding Author: Aaron L. Baggish, MD, Cardiovascular Performance Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St, Yawkey Ste 5B, Boston, MA 02114 (abaggish@partners.org).

Author Contributions: Drs Baggish and Kim had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: All authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Kim, Thompson.

Drafting of the manuscript: Kim, Phelan, Martinez.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Kim, Levine, Emery, Martinez, Chung, Thompson, Baggish.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Kim, Emery.

Supervision: Kim, Levine, Emery, Chung, Baggish.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Kim reported receiving research funding for the study of athletes in competitive sports from the National Institute of Health/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, compensation for his role as team cardiologist from the Atlanta Falcons (in the National Football League), and research stipends from the Atlanta Track Club. Dr Levine reported receiving compensation for his role as a consultant cardiologist for USA Track and Field and the US Olympic Committee. Dr Thompson reported receiving research funding to his institution from Sanofi, Regeneron, Esperion, Amarin, and Amgen; receiving consultation fees or speaker honoraria from Amgen, Amarin, Kowa, Regeneron, Sanofi, Esperion, Kowa, and Boehringer Ingelheim; and owning stock in AbbVie, Abbott Labs, CVS, General Electric, J&J, Medtronic, Sarepta, Boston Scientific, Myokardia, and Moderna. Dr Martinez reported receiving compensation for his role as league cardiology consultant for Major League Soccer outside the submitted work. Dr Baggish reported receiving research funding for the study of athletes in competitive sports from the National Institute of Health/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Football Players Association, and the American Heart Association and compensation for his role as team cardiologist from the US Olympic Committee/US Olympic Training Centers, US Soccer, US Rowing, the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins, the New England Revolution, and Harvard University. No other disclosures were reported.

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