A new study, which compares athletes recovered from Covid-19 to healthy controls, shows that heart muscle inflammation is less common in recovered patients than previously thought. The findings are reported in diagnosticimaging.com, and refer to a study by researchers at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, US.

The results were published by the American Heart Association. A total of 59 athletes took part in the research, and only 3% of these experienced lingering cardiac effects. This contradicts the results of a previous study from September 2020, which showed that 15% of athletes who had recovered from Covid-19 experienced myocarditis.

The most recent study, titled COVID-19 Myocardial Pathology Evaluation in Athletes with Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (COMPETE CMR), compared the 59 recovered athletes with 60 healthy controls, the first to do so when assessing the cardiac effects of Covid-19 on athletes.

First author of the new research, Dan Clark, M.D., MPH, a cardiovascular medicine instructor at Vanderbilt, said: “The degree of myocarditis found by cardiac MRI in Vanderbilt athletes was only 3 percent, which is really good news. Since our first evaluation, we have screened almost double that number and the same findings are holding true.”

However, there were some disappointing findings as well as positive. In the study, none of the screening tests evaluated were able to identify exactly which athletes had myocarditis, and none of those athletes had exhibited any Covid-19 symptoms. This means that an MRI was still necessary for the diagnosis of myocarditis.

Clark concludes: “Myocarditis among recovering COVID-19 athletes is less common than previously reported. We also want to highlight that the comparison to a healthy athletic control group without COVID is critically important to show that many changes on a cardiac MRI are related to athleticism and not COVID-19.”

It is hoped that the new research findings will lead to more accurate assessments when screening athletes for fitness to compete.