The unknown effects that COVID-19 disease may leave have become yet another new medical concern for the NBA as the restart of the basketball season draws near in the Orlando « bubble. »

07/11/2020 at 08:51



The specialists who work with the NBA have focused their attention on the unknown effects that coronavirus may have on the cardiac system in a player who tests positive or has recovered from the virus.

There are unknown effects of the coronavirus on lung capacity and heart health, admit several general managers of NBA teams that are already in the Orlando « bubble ».

What has generated a series of questions around the consequences that COVID-19 could leave on players, despite the fact that they exceed the 14-day quarantine and recover.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after a player recovers You will need to have a cardiac exam.

Although each case will be handled according to their own needs, John DiFiori, NBA sports medicine director, said the deadline for any player to return from a confirmed positive case is at least two weeks.

DiFiori, who is also the chief of primary sports medicine and who works at the New York City Hospital for Special Surgery, added that that time « may be a little longer, depending on individual circumstances, and then he needs some time to be able to condition his whole organism « .

The same process that any NBA player will have to follow, but in his case he won’t have much time to do it.

Heart damage can increase with physical exercise

For his part, Matthew Martínez, a consultant cardiologist for the National Basketball Players Association, said rest is key after a confirmed positive test because doctors believe that « The amount of heart damage can increase if you continue to exercise against an active infection. »

He noted that « if you have a little bit of symptoms, and a week later you’re fine, do you have cardiac compromise? Or if you’re a regular patient, like me, and you’re going to do your (two to three mile runs) every day, it’s a different discussion than if you’re a professional athlete. « 

« That is why we are concerned that this high level of exercise intensity may increase the risk of having an adverse event when there is heart damage related to a virus, « said the specialist.

The reason the league and the Union have focused on the heart is because, according to a memorandum sent to the teams on June 15, the basis for the cardiac examination during the pandemic is linked to the recommendations of the Board of Cardiology of the Sports and Exercise from the American College of Cardiology.

Along with comments from cardiologists working with the Union and NBA, « the potential effects on cardiac health, including myocarditis in particular, are not yet fully understood and may be modified in the future to reflect new information, » according to that memorandum.

Myocarditis and possible death

The recommendations of the American College of Cardiology Council on Sports and Exercise Cardiology point out that « acute cardiac injury occurs in up to 22 percent of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, significantly higher compared to the prevalence of approximately one percent in acute viral infections not related to COVID-19 « .

He claims that myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle from an invasion of myocytes caused by the virus « It could lead to cardiac dysfunction, arrhythmias, and death. »

DiFiori noted that « we know that people who get viral diseases of various different types can develop myocarditis. It is quite rare, but also we know that exercise and training with a possible underlying concern for myocarditis can be a major concern. We must be very cautious with that possibility. « 

Martinez, who is also director of the Center for Sports Cardiology and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey, noted that « In the NBA, we are very concerned about the player’s cardiac safety and we annually assess diseases that increase risk, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle is thickening due to a genetic predisposition. « 

The league and union have been more focused on the heart in recent years, and part of those efforts are tied to health screenings that the player’s guild instituted for retired professionals after several notable NBA retirees died. suddenly due to heart problems.

« Basketball players have the highest incidence of sports-related sudden cardiac death (SCD) in the United States among all groups of athletes, » reported a 2016 study from the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital / Columbia University Medical Center.

« The most common cause of (sudden cardiac death) for American athletes is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (MCH), a condition that causes the left ventricular wall to thicken, forcing the heart to work harder with each beat, « the study indicates.