Cardiologist Sets Record Straight on COVID-19 and Heart Damage

Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Action News coverage of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak

Penn State is walking back comments made by the football team's doctor regarding the risk for heart problems for players infected with COVID-19.

The doctor had said a study revealed up to 35-percent of players in the league who tested positive had evidence of inflammation in the heart.

But on Friday, the doctor and the university say that information is not correct.

Penn State clarified that they didn't perform the study and the results actually show a much lower rate.

But this set off a firestorm in the medical community. Many cardiologists are still questioning the science and now, trying to set the record straight.

Cardiologist Doctor Anish Koka says the numbers were just "implausible." He's skeptical of any report citing a large percentage of COVID-19 patients suffering myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle.

Different viruses can cause the condition and it would put an athlete at risk, but he says it's rare.

And when it comes to COVID-19, and more than six months into the pandemic here, Dr. Koka said "We don't have any good evidence this particular virus is affecting the heart any more than other viruses that are out there," adding "We as cardiologists would be inundated with patients if that was the case."

Still he does say any athlete with significant illness should be thoroughly screened before returning to play.

"I think generally speaking that's a smart thing to do as opposed to saying don't worry about, you want to assess readiness to go back but again that's not just for COVID, that's true for any viral illness," he said.