Long-term cardiac follow-up of athletes infected with SARS-CoV-2 after resumption of elite-level sports

This prospective controlled study included elite athletes from the Evaluation of Lifetime participation in Intensive Top-level sports and Exercise cohort. Athletes infected with SARS-CoV-2were offered structured, additional cardiovascular screenings, including cardiovascular MRI (CMR). We compared ventricular volumes and function, late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) and T1 relaxation times, between infected and non-infected elite athletes, and collected follow-up data on cardiac adverse events, ventricular arrhythmia burden and the cessation of sports careers.

Researches included 259 elite athletes (mean age 26±5 years; 40% women), of whom 123 were infected (9% cardiovascular symptoms) and 136 were controls. We found no differences in function and volumetric CMR parameters. Four infected athletes (3%) demonstrated LGE (one reversible), compared with none of the controls. During the 26.7 (±5.8) months follow-up, all four athletes resumed elite-level sports, without an increase in ventricular arrhythmias or adverse cardiac remodelling. None of the infected athletes reported new cardiac symptoms or events. The majority (n=118; 96%) still participated in elite-level sports; no sports careers were terminated due to SARS-CoV-2.

This prospective study demonstrates the safety of resuming elite-level sports after SARS-CoV-2 infection. The medium-term risks associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection and elite-level sports appear low, as the resumption of elite sports did not lead to detrimental cardiac effects or increases in clinical events, even in the four elite athletes with SARS-CoV-2 associated myocardial involvement.