Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Tommy Sweeney has myocarditis — will the NFL take COVID-19 seriously now? (Prolly not)

Tommy Sweeney tested positive for COVID-19 in late October. Turns out that isn’t his only problem.
Tommy Sweeney tested positive for COVID-19 in late October. Turns out that isn’t his only problem.
Image: (Getty Images)

Maybe the NFL will learn a valuable lesson now that one of its own has myocarditis.

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Or maybe I’m being a bit naive.

Buffalo Bills tight end Tommy Sweeney was diagnosed with myocarditis after contracting COVID-19 in late October. The second-year player did not play a game this season due to a foot injury sustained during training camp.

I think we’re at a point where this has become daily news. Throughout the summer, I wrote about the heart inflammation side effect of contracting COVID-19.

I guess the NFL paid that story no mind.

And you know, it’s not like the biggest story of the summer wasn’t a group of Penn State athletes’ myocarditis diagnoses after contracting COVID-19.

I guess the NFL didn’t see that one either.

Penn State’s athletic doctor said between 30-35 percent of its athletes who tested positive for coronavirus have myocarditis. He has since retracted that statement, saying the percentage is lower than that.

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But even if those numbers aren’t correct, the fact that the story was not taken more seriously in the sports world is pretty telling, especially when there is still so much unknown about the virus.

For the NFL, we get the daily rundown of who returned a positive COVID-19 test, and then it’s pretty much back to business as usual. The player is thrown on the COVID/reserve list, and we don’t hear about them until they return.

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And then, a few days later, the NFL tries to save face with their tweaks to COVID-19 protocols. Anytime some big COVID-19 news drops, the NFL swoops in to “sell us” on the fact that it cares.

It never fails.

On Monday, it expanded COVID-19 protocols, requiring all players not “wearing a helmet or entering the game” to wear a mask. Team traveling parties were reduced to 62 people. Previously all players on the sideline weren’t required to wear a mask.

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If we’re honest, this wouldn’t have helped Sweeney.

The team is not sure when he caught COVID-19, but he was put on the COVID-19/reserve list after teammate and fellow tight end Dawson Knox tested positive on October 24th.

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Knox reported to an October position meeting the day before his positive test, prompting the team to put all people in attendance on the COVID-19 reserve list. Sweeney tested positive a few days later.

If Sweeney caught COVID at that meeting, the new protocols wouldn’t have saved him from the virus.

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Looking at the nature of Sweeney’s situation, all you can do is throw your hands up.

Either these teams learn from others’ experiences, or they get it the hard way.

Sweeney, a 25-year-old, is already being expected to be back in the field in the offseason, according to head coach Sean McDermott.

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Can someone please tell McDermott that’s not how this works?

“The cardiologist discovered that he is suffering from myocarditis, I believe if I got that name right,” McDermott said Monday. “So he’ll be out the remainder of the season, unfortunately, but we’re looking forward to getting him back in the offseason here.”

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While myocarditis can affect individuals of any age, Dr. Leslie T. Cooper of the Myocarditis Foundation says they are finding it at a higher rate in young adult males.

Myocarditis is a heart inflammation brought on by a number of viruses, but is becoming increasingly more common in COVID-19 recovered patients. According to Dr. Cooper, 10-25 percent of COVID-19 victims have myocarditis causing abnormalities in the heart rhythm, pumping, and cardiac arrest.

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And it’s still not clear what the long-term effects of myocarditis are.

McDermott’s statement, treating myocarditis like the average season-ending injury and offhandedly admitting he was unsure how to even say it, shows his willful ignorance or flat out negligence.

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Either way, he is doing a huge disservice to his player. Sweeney should not feel pressured to return from myocarditis.

He should only be concerned with protecting his heart

And at this point, since Sweeney’s diagnosis came after Boston Red Sox ace Eduardo Rodriguez’s diagnosis, how can we give folks in the NFL a pass? Rodriguez was your wake-up call.

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Rodriguez is in his 20s. Healthy. A pro athlete.

So the warning was there. The NFL, once again, just blew it off.