The AHA and American Medical Society for Sports Medicine are collaborating to evaluate impact of COVID on the hearts of athletes, improve detection and inform safe return to play. Getty Images
January 12, 2021 — The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) are joining forces to accelerate a critical new research initiative studying cardiac conditions in athletes, in part to speed new insights into the impact of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) to the cardiovascular system of college athletes and safety of return to play after diagnosis.
The research also will help better understand the long-term impact of COVID, especially in long-hauler COVID patients who still appear to exhibit health issues long after they recover from viral infection.
Sports medicine and cardiology experts at Harvard and the University of Washington have formed a national registry research database to track COVID-19 cases and heart-related impacts in NCAA athletes to drive improvements in screening and to better understand cardiac involvement in college athletes with prior infections. The newly launched Outcomes Registry for Cardiac Conditions in Athletes (ORCCA) has already collected data from more than 3,000 athletes.
The AHA will use its Precision Medicine Platform (PMP), a secure cloud-computing platform hosted by the Association’s Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine to facilitate the research.
“There have been many high-profile cases of athletes at the collegiate and professional levels showing myocarditis, a dangerous inflammation of the heart, after COVID-19,” said Mariell Jessup, M.D., FAHA, cardiologist and chief science and medical officer for the American Heart Association. “Research and data are key to answering the ongoing debate in college sports about the safety of return to play and guidelines on the appropriate assessment of the athletes.”
The research team is led by three primary investigators:
• Jonathan Drezner, M.D., Department of Family Medicine, Center for Sports Cardiology, University of Washington, Seattle
• Kimberly Harmon, M.D., Department of Family Medicine, Center for Sports Cardiology, University of Washington, Seattle
• Aaron Baggish, M.D., Cardiovascular Performance Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
“Many college athletes are students of color, coming from communities with higher risk factors for COVID-19 complications,” said Stephanie Kliethermes, Ph.D., research director of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the AMSSM Collaborative Research Network. “This registry is an exciting and important starting point for the long-term investigation of cardiac outcomes in a diverse group of athletes diagnosed with COVID-19 and other heart conditions which present a potential health risk.”
The collaborative data registry will aid research on COVID-19, and, long-term, develop a deep knowledge base on cardiac disease in athletes beyond the pandemic. The registry has been developed with participation from the NCAA and has more than 60 schools currently contributing to the registry.
Schools interested to participate or learn more about the registry can send an inquiry to: [email protected].
Watch a video interview with Dr. Baggish on this topic — VIDEO: Lingering Myocardial Involvement After COVID-19 Infection
- AHA News: A closer look at COVID-19 and heart complications among athletes, 9/11/2020
- COVID-19 CVD registry details disparities among patients hospitalized with COVID
- American Heart Association coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for the public
- American Heart Association COVID-19 Newsroom
- American Heart Association coronavirus (COVID-19) resources for health care professionals
- American Heart Association announces COVID-19 patient data registry