Cardiopulmonary Issues in Athletes Following COVID-19

Summary by Kevin Ricks, Athletic Trainer, University of Notre Dame, Men’s Hockey

I’m sure everyone is done hearing about all things COVID related but as we hopefully move into a new phase of management it is imperative that we make decisions based on the science and research that does exist.  I am highlighting a study that we participated in along with 43 other college athletic departments looking at the prevalence of cardiopulmonary issues in college level athletes following a diagnosed SARS-CoV-2 infection.  The full published article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine is linked below for those interested in all the details but here are the take home points:

  • Study included 3597 college athletes from 26 different sports
  • 1.2% showed persistent symptoms greater than 3 weeks
  • 4.0% showed exertional cardiopulmonary symptoms upon return to exercise
  • In those with exertional chest pain upon return to activity who underwent cardiac MRI, 20% showed SARSCoV-2 cardiac involvement
  • No athletes with isolated persistent symptoms were diagnosed with “Long COVID”

While numbers are quite low for this population and likely align with what we already thought it can help us make sound decisions and support conversations we need to have with athletes and others involved in their wellbeing.  Clinically monitoring for symptoms upon return to activity regardless of their previous level of symptoms is important.  Any exertional symptoms should raise concern especially chest pain where a cardiac MRI should be considered.

Special thanks to Dr. Matthew Leiszler and Samantha Huba for their work and data collection on this project.

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