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What we know about Myocarditis & COVID-19 in athletes

Recent studies have shown an alarming number of cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, in athletes who previously tested positive for the Coronavirus.

CLEVELAND — There is growing evidence that athletes who have contracted COVID-19 could face long-term health affects – even after they recover.

Recent studies have shown an alarming number of cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, in athletes who previously tested positive for the coronavirus.

Living with myocarditis:

3News digital producer Dave "Dino" DeNatale will never forget his sophomore year of college.

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WKYC.com's Dave "Dino" DeNatale received a 2019 SAVE National Media Award for sharing his struggle with depression and anxiety.

“I had what I felt like was bronchitis, trouble breathing, fever,” said DeNatale.

After six days of riding it out, he took himself to the campus clinic.

“They did a chest X-ray and that's when they discovered that my heart was enlarged because of the myocarditis, and it was triggered by a virus,” said DeNatale.

Myocarditis was a life-changing diagnosis for DeNatale, that meant hanging up his basketball jersey, and starting on medication that he still takes today.

“Thanks to medication and doctors care, it’s something I can live with,” said DeNatale.

Coronavirus & myocarditis in athletes:

Fast forward 20 years, a cardiologist at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center talked about coronavirus and myocarditis in athletes, during the Governor’s press conference on Thursday.

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Dr. Curt Daniels has discovered mild myocarditis in 10 to 13 percent of the athletes he tested, who previously tested positive for COVID-19.

“There appears to be a somewhat higher rate of cardiac involvement causing myocarditis with coronavirus than other viruses,” said Dr. Curt Daniels,  a cardiologist at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center.

And that's in line with studies being done across the country.

The Journal of the American Medical Association studied 100 patients who had recovered from COVID-19. Heart imaging showed "Cardiac involvement" in 78 percent of them, and ongoing myocardial inflammation in 60 percent of them.

“We do know that this does happen and it happens in a community with athletes. We're still not sure again what the overall impact of what that means,” said Dr. Daniels.

That's why athletes who recover from COVID-19 should still monitor themselves closely and talk with a doctor if any cardiac symptoms arise, like shortness of breath or chest pain.

“That level of clearance will be determined by the provider based on age, activity and symptoms,” said Dr. Daniels.

While it’s an evolving science and Dr. Daniels says more research need to be done, DeNatale urges athletes to be cautious.

“I just thought it was important to put a face to the condition and say number one, it’s serious and number two, it's treatable,” said DeNatale.

Myocarditis is generally mild and goes away with rest. But if left undiagnosed or untreated, it can cause heart damage or even sudden cardiac arrest, which can be fatal.