League physicians and officials are concerned about the lingering health effects for NBA players who contract the coronavirus, according to an ESPN report.
“There are unknown effects it has on lung capacity, unknown effects it has on cardiac health,” one general manager of a team entering the NBA bubble told ESPN on the condition of anonymity.
“What if a 24-year-old catches it in Orlando and, in 14 days, he quarantines and is fine, but then he has these everlasting heart problems? Or what if he gets winded easily, or he becomes a little bit too susceptible to fatigue? … These are all the unknowns.”
The NBA is preparing to restart the season, with 22 teams reporting this week to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando for training camp. Games are scheduled to resume on July 30.
Any player who tests positive faces a two-week quarantine period before he can be cleared to return to the court. A physician will determine when the isolation period is over, a process that will include a cardiac screening.
Matthew Martinez, a consulting cardiologist for the NBA Players Association, stressed to ESPN that players will need time to rest after a positive test because doctors believe “the amount of cardiac damage can increase if you continue to exercise in the face of an active infection.”
The effects of COVID-19 on cardiac health, including myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), are “not yet fully understood,” the league wrote in a memo sent to teams on June 15, per ESPN.
According to the American College of Cardiology’s Sports and Exercise Cardiology Council, “Acute cardiac injury … occurs in up to 22% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19, which is significantly higher compared with the approximately 1% prevalence in non-COVID-19 acute viral infections.”
Myocarditis “could result in cardiac dysfunction, arrhythmias, and death,” the council said.
John DiFiori, the NBA’s director of sports medicine, told ESPN he would urge any player who is diagnosed with the coronavirus to follow a physician’s advice for managing the illness.
“If you don’t feel well, don’t try to push through this,” Fiori said. “This is not a situation where anyone, whether you’re an athlete or not, should try to push through or minimize symptoms or try to ignore symptoms and try to push through to try to continue to work or continue to play a sport.”