KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Sudden cardiac arrest is the number one killer of student-athletes.
The vast majority of those had an undetected heart condition but now, something new has emerged which may put students even more at risk. Early data suggests the novel coronavirus can adversely affect a student-athlete’s heart.
Weeks before the games begin, student-athletes undergo what’s called pre-participation physical evaluations even though some consideration was given this year to waiving them for returning athletes because of the risk of COVID-19.
“It is still very important to be done for a multitude of reasons,” Pediatrician Jeffery Kile at PAK Pediatrics told Eyewitness News.
One reason is because of COVID-19 itself. Kile says student-athletes who’ve had the virus or have been exposed to it, are vulnerable to heart muscle inflammation called myocarditis.
“And we don’t know what the inflammation is due to, whether if COVID is attacking the heart, in and of itself, or if it’s inflammation from other parts of the body that are increasing stress and inflammation in the heart,” Kile said.
That stress and inflammation pose a risk of cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. Dr. Kile says it makes detecting signs of potential cardiac problems a priority.
“It can come out in a multitude of different ways,” Kile said. “One is that children can get chest pain with activity. They can get shortness of breath, fatigue when they’re playing and those are all signs that something can be going on with their heart.”
While the data is still new, it’s alarming enough to make sure student-athletes are properly evaluated during the pandemic.
“Do you have any shortness of breath, fatigue with playing, chest pain with playing, have you passed out or felt your heart beating funny in your chest? Those are all things that lead us down the road that children and young adults need to have their hearts checked prior to engaging in any sport,” Kile said.
You can find more information on how COVID-19 can impact heart health by clicking here.