Big Ten cardiologists release results of COVID study

Big Ten cardiologists release results of COVID study
Big Ten cardiologists release results of COVID study(Ellis Wiltsey)
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 9:02 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart. It’s one of the leading causes of sudden death in athletes and it was the top reason cited in halting Big Ten sports at the beginning of the pandemic.

Now, researchers have released their baseline results of a study from cardiologists across the Big Ten conference.

Dr. Mathue Baker is a cardiologist with Bryan Health and has been working with Husker athletes for years. He is also a member of the Big Ten’s Cardiology Subcommittee.

Starting last fall, the group was tasked with taking a closer look at heart health in athletes, specifically looking for myocarditis.

“You only have to have one case and it’s absolutely tragic,” Dr. Baker said.

The study looked at 13 of the 14 Big Ten Schools, not including Illinois. Of the more than 9,200 athletes across those schools, just over 30% tested positive for COVID-19.

From there, the study focused on about 1,600 students to track potential heart-related issues.

“With a pretty intensive set of cardiac tests, all the way from cardiac MRIs, blood tests, EKGs, ultrasounds of their hearts,” Dr. Baker said.

In total, 37 athletes in the study were diagnosed with myocarditis. Nine experienced symptoms, the other 28 were asymptomatic. Those diagnoses were also predominantly in males, at 73%.

“After COVID the incidents of anything significant in terms of myocarditis or inflammation of the heart was in the 1% to 2% range,” Dr. Baker said. “Which is not minuscule, but not as much as we were initially concerned about.”

Dr. Baker said with that baseline in place, much of the work that’s being done on Husker athletes this fall is with those who are still experiencing COVID long-hauler effects of the heart.

“Preventative care is something that’s very hard for people to see the results of because if you do it very well, nothing happens,” Dr. Baker said.

The study concluded that testing protocols were closely tied to finding those cases of myocarditis, so continuing to keep a close eye on athletes who have had COVID remains a priority.

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