Home Sports Big Ten’s coronavirus problem has an ‘alarming’ heart issue side effect

Big Ten’s coronavirus problem has an ‘alarming’ heart issue side effect

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The Big Ten’s decision to cancel fall football had at least partly to do with the fact a significant percentage of its athletes who tested positive for the novel coronavirus also suffered from a heart condition connected to the virus, Penn State director of athletic medicine Wayne Sebastianelli said.

Sebastianelli said during a State College Area board of directors meetings that 30-35 percent of Big Ten athletes had myocarditis, a condition that inflames the heart muscle and can be potentially fatal, Parth Upadhyaya of the Centre Daily Times reported. It should be noted not all Big Ten athletes who tested positive, Sebastianelli said, received MRI exams on their hearts.

“When we looked at our COVID-positive athletes, whether they were symptomatic or not, 30 to roughly 35 percent of their heart muscles [are] inflamed,” Sebastianelli said. “And we really just don’t know what to do with it right now. It’s still very early in the infection. Some of that has led to the Pac-12 and the Big Ten’s decision to sort of put a hiatus on what’s happening.”

COVID-19 has led the Big Ten and Pac-12 to cancel fall sports, along with several other Division I conferences. The NCAA also postponed fall championships, though it has no power over the College Football Playoff, which remains in limbo as the SEC, AAC, ACC and Big 12 attempt to play in the fall.

Sebastianelli described the myocarditis findings as “alarming,” casting doubt on the idea that COVID-19 doesn’t affect younger people or those in shape.

“You could have a very high-level athlete who’s got a very superior VO2 max and cardiac output who gets infected with COVID and can drop his or her VO2 max and cardiac output just by 10 percent, and that could make them go from elite status to average status,” Sebastianelli said. “We don’t know that. We don’t know how long that’s going to last. What we have seen is when people have been studied with cardiac MRI scans—symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID infections—is a level of inflammation in cardiac muscle that just is alarming.”

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