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COVID-19 may trigger heart condition in young athletes

A heart condition, myocarditis, has been found in a number of U.S. college athletes who have had COVID-19, a new study finds.

Myocarditis has also been linked in some young people to the COVID-19 vaccine. But the odds are far greater that this inflammation of the heart muscle will occur in those who get COVID-19 infection itself, experts said.

“We’re still learning about how the virus attacks the heart,” said lead researcher Dr. Jean Jeudy, a professor of radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“Myocarditis is part of the body’s reaction to fighting the infection, but it’s also in response to the virus trying to attack the heart,” Jeudy said.

Myocarditis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It can affect the heart’s rhythm and ability to pump. It can also cause lasting scarring of the heart muscle, Jeudy’s team noted.

The risk for myocarditis among people with COVID-19 is 16 times higher than among those without the infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jeudy and his colleagues said that myocarditis has been linked to up to 20% of sudden deaths in young athletes.

Concern had been raised that myocarditis can occur after being vaccinated for COVID-19, especially among young males like those in this study.

According to the CDC, however, there are approximately 50 cases of myocarditis for every 1 million young men vaccinated, far below the risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 itself.

Based on its data, the CDC says the benefit from the vaccine far outweighs the risk of getting myocarditis.

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