Long-term cardiac follow-up of athletes infected with SARS-CoV-2 after resumption of elite-level sports

Juliette C van Hattum, Joëlle J N Daems, Sjoerd M Verwijs, Leonoor V Wismans, Maarten A van Diepen, Maarten Groenink, S Matthijs Boekholdt, R Nils Planken, Adrienne van Randen, Alexander Hirsch, Maarten H Moen, Yigal M Pinto, Arthur A M Wilde, Harald T Jørstad

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: 

Longitudinal consequences and potential interactions of COVID-19 and elite-level sports and exercise are unclear. Therefore, we determined the long-term detrimental cardiac effects of the interaction between SARS-CoV-2 infection and the highest level of sports and exercise.

METHODS

This prospective controlled study included elite athletes from the Evaluation of Lifetime participation in Intensive Top-level sports and Exercise cohort. Athletes infected with SARS-CoV-2were offered structured, additional cardiovascular screenings, including cardiovascular MRI (CMR). We compared ventricular volumes and function, late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) and T1 relaxation times, between infected and non-infected elite athletes, and collected follow-up data on cardiac adverse events, ventricular arrhythmia burden and the cessation of sports careers.

RESULTS: 

We included 259 elite athletes (mean age 26±5 years; 40% women), of whom 123 were infected (9% cardiovascular symptoms) and 136 were controls. We found no differences in function and volumetric CMR parameters. Four infected athletes (3%) demonstrated LGE (one reversible), compared with none of the controls. During the 26.7 (±5.8) months follow-up, all four athletes resumed elite-level sports, without an increase in ventricular arrhythmias or adverse cardiac remodelling. None of the infected athletes reported new cardiac symptoms or events. The majority (n=118; 96%) still participated in elite-level sports; no sports careers were terminated due to SARS-CoV-2.

CONCLUSIONS: 

This prospective study demonstrates the safety of resuming elite-level sports after SARS-CoV-2 infection. The medium-term risks associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and elite-level sports appear low, as the resumption of elite sports did not lead to detrimental cardiac effects or increases in clinical events, even in the four elite athletes with SARS-CoV-2 associated myocardial involvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-262
Number of pages9
JournalHeart (British Cardiac Society)
Volume110
Issue number4
Early online date7 Sept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2024.

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