NFL, major sports leagues announce study showing low rate of heart disease in athletes who tested positive for COVID-19

As the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the top sports leagues in the United States are combining their resources to gain a better understanding of the long-term effects of the virus.

A new peer-reviewed study published by JAMA Cardiology on Thursday including research from medical experts representing the NFL, MLB, MLS, NBA, NHL, WNBA and their respective players associations found "very few cases of inflammatory heart disease" in athletes that previously tested positive for COVID-19.

The leagues issued a joint press release outlining the study's findings.

"As part of that ongoing collaboration, each league implemented a similar cardiac screening program for athletes with prior COVID-19 infection," the statement read in part. "The screening programs, which are based on American College of Cardiology recommendations, are used to detect serious conditions resulting from the virus and help promote an athlete's safe return to play after COVID-19 infection.

"Using de-identified data from the six leagues, the peer-reviewed study published today found very few cases of inflammatory heart disease and that a return to professional sports following COVID-19 infection can be safely achieved using this return to play screening program. In this study of 789 COVID-19 positive athletes from across our leagues, evidence of inflammatory heart disease was identified in 0.6% of athletes. The study also found no adverse cardiac events occurring in the athletes who underwent cardiac screening and subsequently resumed professional sport participation. The study additionally reflects the care provided by club medical and athletic training staffs who contributed to the study."

The leagues also intend to share the results of this study "to continue to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the virus -- a commitment we collectively share with each other and our players for the benefit of society beyond sports."

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