By: David Geller, CPCU, SCLA
What is Myocarditis?
According to Mayo Clinic, “Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium). Myocarditis can affect your heart muscle and your heart's electrical system, reducing your heart's ability to pump and causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).” WebMD adds that when an individual has a viral infection, “your body produces cells to fight it. These cells release chemicals. If the disease-fighting cells enter your heart, some chemicals they release can inflame your heart muscle.”
Mayo Clinic also notes that it can result from a general inflammatory condition, or a reaction from a drug.
Myocarditis Emerging as a COVID-19 Concern
As research continues to be undertaken relating to this novel disease, more potential health impacts are being uncovered. Scientific American recently reported that “the evidence has strengthened that cardiac damage can happen even among people who have never displayed symptoms of coronavirus infection.”
Some anecdotes listed in the article include:
- Shortly after recovering from COVID-19, a basketball player in Serbia passed away due to suspected heart complications while training.
- An autopsy of an 11-year-old child with multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) revealed that there were coronavirus particles in the child’s cardiac tissue, perhaps explaining how the virus could have contributed to her death.
- An associate chief of cardiology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York referenced a patient who had developed myocarditis nearly a month after it was believed that he had recovered from COVID-19, reinforcing fears that the disease may cause issues past a presumed recovery.
While Scientific American notes that there is uncertainty around this number, it is estimated that 7% of deaths from COVID-19 could be the result of myocarditis. Additionally, the article cites a German study which “found that 78 percent of recovered COVID-19 patients, the majority of whom had only mild to moderate symptoms, demonstrated cardiac involvement more than two months after their initial diagnosis.” The lead investigator of the study told Scientific American that his “‘personal take is that COVID will increase the incidence of heart failure over the next decades.’”
Myocarditis Putting a Scare in Sports Leagues
As professional sports continue to start back up (baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey came back in the summer, with football slated for the fall), potential heart complications relating to COVID-19 are naturally drawing heightened levels of concern from athletes, their families, and many others.
The aforementioned associated chief of cardiology at Mount Sinai Beth Israel told Scientific American that it would be “‘extremely dangerous’” for athletes to play competitive sports within 3-6 months of being diagnosed with myocarditis.
As of posting, ESPN has reported that these fears, as well as other general COVID-19 worries, have compelled two major college conferences to announce the postponement of all competitive sports until 2021.