SHAWNEE, Kan. — As some school districts decide to move forward with fall sports and activities, health officials are worried about more than COVID-19.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman said long-term effects of coronavirus and other medical uncertainties are concerning.
“Even young people are not immune to this," Norman said.
Reports this week linked COVID-19 and myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that reduces the heart's ability to pump blood. It can also be deadly if not addressed.
“It can not only affect the ability of the heart to pump effectively, but it can also affect the conduction system, meaning the electrical conduction through the heart, so it can cause life-threatening cardiac rhythm disturbances," Norman said.
Norman told 41 Action News that it's not only COVID-19 that causes myocarditis.
“If normal viruses like adenovirus or influenza and others cause myocarditis maybe a percent or two of the total number of cases, and I think it’s going to be a double-digit number in COVID-19, at least judging on the early things we’re seeing coming out of reports," Norman said.
This week, Penn State's director of athletic medicine said that around one-third of Big Ten athletes who tested positive for coronavirus may have myocarditis. He later corrected the numbers to around 15%.
Despite the confusion surrounding the statement, Norman said the numbers are still alarming.
“Even a fairly small percentage, even if it were 3 to 5% of a very large number is a very large number," Norman said.
For mild cases of coronavirus in athletes specifically, Norman suspects they would be monitored and gradually get back into activity. For moderate to severe cases, physicians would do more testing.
Before returning to play, Norman encourages all athletes who tested positive for COVID-19 to be checked for myocarditis.
“Even if a person was infected with COVID-19, rather asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, I think touching base with their physician or a sports medicine doctor would be a very smart thing to do, because a lot of the times athletes aren’t very forthcoming to be honest with you," Norman said. "They’ll minimize their symptoms because they want to get back in the game."