The protocols recommend a clinical exam, ultrasound, electrocardiogram, and blood test to help diagnose myocarditis in athletes who have contracted the coronavirus. The Ohio State study used all methods and CMR imaging, which proved to be effective in identifying myocardial inflammation that was not detected by the other methods.
A new Ohio State study shows that a cardiac MRI can identify myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, in athletes.
The test could help determine when athletes diagnosed with COVID-19 can safely return to playing sports, the university said.
Researchers at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center examined 26 male and female college athletes from across the Midwest who tested positive for COVID-1
Existing protocols recommend a clinical exam, ultrasound, electrocardiogram, and blood test to help diagnose myocarditis in athletes before they can return to competitive play.
The Ohio State researchers used all of these methods and added cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR), which proved effective in identifying myocardial inflammation that was not detected by the other methods.
CMR imaging shows detailed images of the heart. It can help doctors study the structure of the heart muscle and find the cause of a patient’s heart failure or pinpoint tissue damage.
Using CMR imaging, 15% of athletes in the study were shown to likely have myocarditis. Eight other athletes had scar tissue that could have been a previous myocardial injury or a normal athletic adaptation of the heart.
“We were able to differentiate those who had signs of myocardial inflammation – and therefore myocarditis – from those who didn’t, and MRI has become the tool that has done it with the greatest sensitivity,” said the Dr. Curt Daniels, study co-author, cardiologist and professor at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
Myocarditis causes about 75 deaths per year in young athletes between the ages of 13 and 25, usually without warning, according to the Myocarditis Foundation. It is typically caused by a viral infection that occurs in young adults and often affects males more than females.
Myocarditis has been observed in patients who have recovered from COVID-19. Twelve athletes studied by Ohio State researchers reported mild symptoms of COVID-19, and the rest were asymptomatic.
“Whenever there is inflammation in the heart, we must recommend rest for three months,” said Dr. Saurabh Rajpal, a cardiologist and assistant professor in the Ohio Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the College of Medicine, who led I study.
The researchers did not specify how many athletes were from the state of Ohio or provided a breakdown of the sports they played.
Rapid result testing and CMR imaging can provide added confidence for returning athletes.
“Whenever you feel like you can provide greater security, you feel more comfortable with participating,” Daniels said. “The combination of these two things would seem at least where we are today. We could be talking about something different in six months, but where we are today in the current environment and in the current data, these would be two tools to potentially provide a safe environment to play. . “
Doctors are concerned about athletes who have recovered from COVID-19 with heart problems.
The Big Ten Conference canceled the fall sports season on August 11 due to player safety concerns linked to COVID-19. Several other conferences have followed suit.
According to ESPN, myocarditis has been seen in at least five Big Ten Conference athletes.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez is out for the remainder of the season after developing myocarditis following a positive COVID-19 test before Boston summer camp.
Myocarditis isn’t limited to just athletes. A July study showed that out of 100 adult patients in Germany who had recovered from COVID-19, 60 had ongoing myocardial inflammation.
The Ohio State research was published online in JAMA Cardiology.
Reporter Bill Rabinowitz contributed to this report.