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What to know about myocarditis and young athletes during COVID-19 pandemic

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Doctors say the effects can be mild to severe.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohio is giving the green light to high school sports this fall, doctors are concerned about a heart condition possibly linked to COVID-19.

Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Doctors say the effects can be mild to severe.

"There could be the acute effects of the myocarditis - that is the inflammatory phase, but then long-term there could be damage to the heart where it affects the majority of the heart muscle, weakens the heart muscle, and can even lead to dangerous rhythm problems and sudden cardiac death," said Dr. Curt Daniels, director of sports cardiology at The Ohio State University and professor of internal medicine and pediatrics.

Dr. Daniels said while there is limited data on COVID-19 and myocarditis, doctors at the university found up to 13% of athletes with COVID-19 had evidence of inflammation of the heart muscle.

"We don't know what that amount of inflammation actually means," he said. "Is it so mild that it doesn't have a clinical effect or a risk to them? Or can any inflammation be a risk? We don't know that at this point. That's going to happen over time as we gather more data and see athletes coming back for re-evaluation."

Dr. Daniels said athletes need to be careful this fall. Preventing COVID-19 is key, but if an athlete tests positive for it, they need to watch out for symptoms even weeks later.

"Any chest pain, any trouble breathing ... any funny heartbeats, certainly any dizziness, passing out or nearly passing out, should be taken very seriously and evaluated," Dr. Daniels said.

Dr. Daniels hopes the current conversation about myocarditis will also shine a light on the importance of safety protocols.

"Just as we do training for fires in schools every month, we should have a training at least once a season for what do you if somebody goes down? How you do CPR, where is the AED, do we know how to use it, is it close enough to the activity and field? That is the only thing that has ever shown to save lives is having an AED and knowing how to use it."

To read Ohio's sports order, click here.