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PHOENIX – Banner Health experts are advising all athletes who have recovered from the novel coronavirus to be cleared by their physicians and athletic trainers before returning to play, due to concern of heart damage.
"Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, our sports medicine experts began to recognize many athletes who had experienced COVID-19 also had cardiac symptoms linked to myocarditis," said Dr. Steven Erickson, medical director for Banner – University Sports Medicine and Concussion Specialists. "We know in sports medicine when we look at sudden death in sports, approximately 20% of the episodes of sudden cardiac death are from myocarditis."
Banner – University Sports Medicine and Concussion Specialists began working with other physicians and national professional athletic trainers during the late summer months to learn more, aiming to help collegiate and high school athletes return to play safely after recovering from COVID-19.
"I worked alongside various experts from the Banner Health system, from pediatric and adult cardiologists to primary care sports medicine doctors, to develop an algorithm -- based on the American College of Cardiology recommendations and personal experiences -- that would make the most sense to screen athletes for myocarditis," said Dr. Erickson.
After gathering data and findings from national professional sports teams, Banner Health experts developed this algorithm that would become a critical resource to help physicians and athletic trainers screen athletes to avoid any potentials risks that could lead to myocarditis.
"The returning-to-play protocol has been the biggest determining factor (in whether) an athlete is ready to return or if they're experiencing more complications from COVID-19," said Jessica Reed, assistant athletic trainer at Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee, Arizona. "A lot of parents and athletes are not aware of those complications and the severity of them.
Standing at 6 feet tall, freshman and basketball player Ryan Moon at Mountain Pointe High School was one of the student athletes impacted from severe complications, even after recovering from COVID-19.
"I thought I was completely fine and I could return to play, but then I found out that my heart had issues, which was a big shocker," said Moon. "I thought it didn't happen to people, then it happened to me."
Ryan's father, Philip Moon, shared that no parent should risk their kid's life and should take every safety precaution to protect their health, even after recovering from COVID-19.
"As you can imagine, I felt frustrated at that situation but deep gratitude that this was caught," said Philip. "If this wasn't caught, he was set to get back on the court in late January, and he would have been playing with this heart issue."
To protect Ryan's health, he will not be participating this season and has had various cardiac screenings. He could be back to playing basketball in late April.
"Thankfully, the district put this protocol in place to literally save us, (and) saved us from a lot of heartaches," said Philip. "It's an emotional roller coaster thinking we're going to get through this. Even though we lost so much, three months compared to the rest of his life, it's a no brainer. You have to look at the big picture.”
As one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the team at Banner Health is committed to ensuring all Banner locations are a safe place for care. Headquartered in Phoenix, Banner Health owns and operates 28 acute-care hospitals and an array of other services, including Banner Imaging, Banner Telehealth, and Banner Urgent Care. Team members are dedicated to protecting the health and safety of patients, be it a routine checkup, elective surgery or an urgent health service. Waiting room and employee workstation layouts maintain proper social distancing; screenings are conducted at hospital entrances to verify that all employees and visitors are well; and, all Banner physicians are equipped to visit patients remotely. Learn more about Banner's commitment to safety at www.bannerhealth.com/safecare.