The last few months have revealed the scope of damage dealt by COVID-19. Hundreds of thousands are dead. Millions more have been infected. No one knows yet what lingering health effects they will face.
For young athletes, merely catching the virus can jeopardize professional aspirations.
We’ve already seen young pros in their 20s, suffer from myocarditis — heart inflammation — as a side effect of COVID-19. It has sidelined at least two pro athletes, Tommy Sweeney and Eduardo Rodriguez. A young college football player died of complications.
To mitigate this phenomenon, Kentucky’s Norton Healthcare will be partnering with the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University to ensure proper heart testing for athletes as they recover from COVID-19.
“We want to ensure that athletes are as healthy as possible as they continue to participate in sports, Dr. Scotty Newcomer said. “This virus has been shown to affect the heart directly, and we want to make sure our athletes are safe. We want to catch any concerns before athletes start having symptoms.”
All doctors in the ACC meet weekly. The ACC has had numerous athletes come down with myocarditis, but only one case was from an asymptomatic athlete, Newcomer says.
But is the timetable for Norton-Louisville’s process sufficient to catch and prevent lasting heart damage?
Sweeney contracted COVID in late October, but the Buffalo Bills tight end was only diagnosed with myocarditis a few weeks ago. The team’s medical personnel didn’t recognize he had myocarditis until almost a month later, in late November.
Sweeney’s timeline leading into a myocarditis diagnosis is nearly identical to that of Boston Red Sox pitcher Rodriguez.
Dr. Newcomer says he hopes their timeline is enough to “mitigate any lasting or catastrophic effects.”
According to the NCAA’s “return to sport” guidelines, after an athlete receives normal EKG results, they proceed on to a physical exam before they are cleared to play.
JAMA Cardiology journal found in a study that four out of 26 college athletes studied had signs of myocarditis after recovering from COVID-19.
There’s a whole generation that will be searching for answers.
These are young athletes, in their late teens and early 20s, being saddled with indefinite heart complications, lung damage, and blood clots.
Yes, it’s possible that everything can turn out OK, but we still don’t fully understand the situation. No one does. And we aren’t doing much to ensure athletes are protected and their future is taken into account. We have sports pushing forward, still, during a pandemic that has now killed over 284,000 people in the United States.
What Norton Healthcare is doing in Louisville is great. It’s necessary, but when everything comes out surrounding this year of sports, how will we explain this five or ten years from now?
Are sports more important than a fully functioning and healthy heart? Is permanent shortness of breath brought on by COVID-19 lung damage just an inevitable fate because college athletes have to hold up their end of the college sports plantation complex?
After a player is diagnosed with myocarditis or any side effect from COVID-19, that road is traveled alone, however long it may be — regardless of how the NCAA continues to trivialize its significance.
This is a bleak reality that has been shoved in front of all of our faces. Young athletes, and Americans in general, deserve better.