Duke studying how top athletes are impacted by COVID-19 infections

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FILE – A student athlete runs a drill during a strength and conditioning camp at Arlington Martin High School Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Texas will play high school football this fall, but some of it will be delayed, fans will be limited and masks will be required as the state fights a surge in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities. The University Interscholastic League on Tuesday, July 21, 2020 released its guidelines for Texas public high school fall sports, pushing back the start of the football and volleyball seasons for the largest schools by one month into late September and extending the football championships for those schools into January. (AP Photo/LM Otero, file)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – COVID-19 has proved to be riskier for people with a number of pre-exisiting conditions including obesity. However, what does COVID-19 mean for the fittest among us?

It’s what a new study out of Duke University hopes to answer. Duke reported the study was originally looking to understand how the hearts of athletes are impacted by high-level athletic activities. The study has now shifted its focus to COVID-19.

Researchers hope to find the rate of heart complications related to COVID-19 along with any symptoms related to it among athletes.

In a news release from Duke, Dr. Manesh Patel, chief of cardiology at Duke University Medical School said, “Now with COVID and its potential impact on the heart, it’s more important than ever to understand whether athletes face unique risks or greater protections based on their cardiovascular features.”

The study is in partnership with The Joel Cornette Foundation. The organization was founded by the family of the late Joel Cornette. The Division 1 basketball player died from an undiagnosed heart condition.

The study will enroll 300 NCAA, professional and Olympic athletes. Participants will be COVID-positive and COVID-negative. The athletes will use the Hearts of Athletes app to monitor their hearts.

“Athletes need to know if they have heart conditions that put them at risk – this is information that is empowering. We need to be able to identify those conditions and weigh the impact,” Patel said.

A similar study published in the JAMA Cardiology in May questioned the impact of COVID-19 and different approaches to screening for Big Ten athletes. Out of 1,597 athletes who received comprehensive heart testing, 2.3-percent were diagnosed with myocarditis after a COVID-19 infection. Of the 37 athletes who were diagnosed with heart damage, 28 reported having no symptoms like chest pain or heart palpations. The study concluded that symptom-based heart screenings may not be enough to catch heart damage caused by COVID-19.

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