As athletes recover from Covid-19, taking images of their hearts to screen for inflammation may help doctors determine when it could be safe to return to competing in games, new research suggests.

The study – conducted by researchers at Ohio State University – found in cardiac magnetic resonance images, or MRIs, that among 26 of the university’s competitive athletes who were recovering from Covid-19, four showed signs of inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis.

“Our objective was to investigate the use of cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging in competitive athletes recovered from COVID-19 to detect myocardial inflammation that would identify high-risk athletes for return to competitive play,” the researchers wrote in their study, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology on Friday.

More on this: The researchers performed cardiac magnetic resonance imaging on 26 competitive athletes referred to the university’s sports medicine clinic after testing for Covid-19 between June and August. The athletes were involved in football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and track – and only 12 athletes reported having symptoms, which were mild, while others did not show any symptoms.

The cardiac imaging was performed after each athlete quarantined for at least 11 days. No athletes had illness severe enough to require hospitalization, according to the study, and none received antiviral therapies specific for Covid-19.

The imaging showed that four athletes, or 15%, had findings consistent with myocarditis and eight additional athletes, or 30.8%, had signs of prior myocardial injury.

The study had some limitations, including that more research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among a larger group of college athletes from various universities.



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