Growing Number of Athletes with COVID-19 Heart Problems Suggests Monitoring

September 4, 2020

Pro, college, and high school athletes are seeing increasing numbers of COVID-19 infection and potential heart complications that could be career-ending. Ambulatory cardiac monitoring provider InfoBionic says simple and effective remote cardiac monitoring will save lives—and careers.

While Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) remains the leading cause of death in athletes, the growing prevalence of heart conditions in those recovering from COVID-19 only adds to the real danger. There are hundreds of players across pro, college, and even high school sports diagnosed and dealing with COVID-19, according to a report.

This has led to worrying over the possible implications for heart arrhythmias that will require proactive care and monitoring. The reality is being echoed by leading ambulatory cardiac monitoring provider InfoBionic. “Athletes and others dealing with long-term heart conditions after COVID-19 will need a reliable ambulatory cardiac monitor to provide proactive health interventions,” explained InfoBionic CEO Stuart Long.

Rising Numbers of Athletes with COVID-19

There are currently hundreds of players across pro, college, and even high school sports teams and franchises testing positive for COVID-19 and/or dealing with the virus. This has led to increasing numbers of athletes who are either asymptomatic or post-COVID recoverees. With post-COVID-19 heart and health effects becoming clearer, these individuals must be monitored carefully as they return to active sports training and play.

Even as infectious-disease and cardiovascular experts need more information on how COVID-19 might affect an athlete’s heart, the evidence is already mounting. A recent German study shows that 78 of 100 tested patients recovering from COVID-19 had some form of ‘cardiac abnormality” with 60% showing heart inflammation consistent with myocarditis. Other prominent studies show estimates of 1% to 5% of all patients with acute viral infections may involve the myocardium, or the muscular tissue, of the heart.

As leagues and teams at all levels are looking at cancelling entire seasons, the focus is shifting to ways to monitor and prevent further heart complications for both post-COVID-19 athletes and those yet to be diagnosed. Major League Baseball has established a COVID-19 action plan while the NBA has established daily testing and monitoring.

MRIs are being employed for monitoring athletes with the most apparent and severe signs of post-COVID-19 heart conditions across Big Ten Conference athletes. German researchers studying the potential impact of heart complications for athletes following COVID-19 suggest an EKG as part of the monitoring process before they return to training and play.

But not every sports team—and especially high school programs or their families—can employ MRIs or even traditional EKG in ways that are effective for proactive cardiac monitoring. Cardiologists and researchers are recommending active EKG monitoring for these athletes.

Proactive Athlete Heart Monitoring

This is in response to the reality that long-term health and heart implications of the virus are just now being uncovered with much more remaining unknown. There is a new understanding of the cardiovascular dangers for young as well as older patients with and without health conditions. These health risks position ambulatory cardiac monitoring as the most effective means of proactive intervention and improved health outcomes for individuals—especially athletes— with heart conditions, the report said.

Athletes and athletic programs will need solutions that provide remote “full disclosure” monitoring that can deliver telemetry style data of entire waveforms that include the onset and offset of any cardiac events. These solutions must be ambulatory and simple for the athlete while providing doctors and cardiologists with 24/7 data access on demand. The growing post-COVID-19 population of heart condition individuals also positions these solutions to drive policy and research studies on the long-term effects of a COVID-19 aftermath.

The cardiac after-effects of COVID-19 in athletes poses a major challenge for their health and the people responsible for keeping them safe including their cardiologist and coaches. Long explains that keeping athletes healthy, safe, and playing requires an effective, simple, and ambulatory heart monitoring solution that enables proactive interventions.

“Healthy athletes have always been at a higher risk of heart-related complications, and COVID-19 can further increase life-altering heart risks,” explained Long. “Where medically necessary, a versatile FDA approved remote cardiac monitoring solution that can provide continuous data to cardiologists is the key to proactive interventions that saves lives and keeps players healthy. Infobionic’s MoMe® Kardia platform is such a device; one that can ensure cardiac episodes are detected—and attended to—expeditiously.”