It isn't just the weak but also those with preconditions who should be wary of their heart after surviving COVID-19 because even athletes were found to have heart inflammation after their bout with coronavirus. A recent study showed that 15 percent of athletes who tested positive for coronavirus and recovered, suffered from heart inflammation thereafter.

The research conducted by Ohio State University, was reported Friday in a research letter in JAMA Cardiology. It showed that these college athletes were healthy and yet they showed a sign of inflammation of the heart after they recovered from the deadly disease.

Researchers looked at MRI scans of athletes when they were confronted with the appalling result. The study came about as a number of colleges were gearing towards continuing their seasons, albeit there are those that opted to temporarily pause programs due to the increase in coronavirus cases.

Researchers looked at any sign of myocarditis, a type of heart ailment characterised by the inflammation of the heart muscle, which reduces the ability of the heart to pump. It also causes either abnormal or rapid heart rhythms. Myocarditis was said to be caused by an infection. It was also regarded as the cause of seven to 20 percent of cardiac arrests in sportspersons. Although these deaths are not common occurrences, the consequences are often tragic.

The link between COVID-19 and heart problems was already identified in the early period of the pandemic. However, doctors saw that most of the cases were those who had chronic conditions, the vulnerable ones, or those hospitalised.

Dr Saurabh Rajpal, one of the authors of the study and an Ohio State University assistant professor of cardiology, and also a cardiac MRI specialist, revealed that early on in the pandemic, they have already received information about cardiac issues involving hospitalised patients. Looking at athletes who perform high-intensity exercises and who have shown higher incidences of sudden cardiac deaths as compared to non-athletes, Rajpal and colleagues thought about what could be the most ideal test to determine whether athletes suffered from heart inflammation.

The MRIs of athletes that researchers checked were those belonging to basketball, track, football, soccer, and lacrosse. Out of the 26 athletes that they checked, 12 showed mild symptoms and the rest were asymptomatic. The symptomatic ones already recovered when they had the MRI and that was between 11 to 53 days after they confirmed positive for COVID-19.

Houssem Aouar in action against Bayern Munich. He is one of those players who could well now be sold by a Lyon side deprived of Champions League football in the new season Photo: POOL / Miguel A. Lopes

There were four, roughly 15 percent, who showed signs of inflammation of the heart. The researchers noted that this does not necessarily mean that athletes who recovered from COVID-19 are in danger. Dr Eugene Chung, University of Michigan's cardiac electrophysiologist, and who was not part of the Ohio State study, stated that those in the study have already recovered. However, he gave a word of caution to those with MRI findings, saying that he would recommend exercise limitation for up to three months.