Mikele Colasurdo

Mikele Colasurdo

The combination of COVID-19, college football and cardiac problems emerged in a major way Thursday with a Georgia State University quarterback being diagnosed with a heart condition.

Mikele Colasurdo announced on Twitter on Thursday that he was diagnosed with a heart condition “as a result of my COVID-19 infection.’’

He added that because of his condition, he won’t be able to play football this year.

Colasurdo, a freshman, thanked his coach and trainer for providing the team “a safe environment for us to train and practice. Ultimately it was the procedures and tests set forth by GSU that allowed the doctors to find this condition in my heart and help keep me safe.”

Concern about potential heart complications from COVID-19 has been a key factor in the debate over whether college football should be played this fall. Much of the attention has focused on a rare heart condition, myocarditis, that has been seen in several athletes.

Colasurdo, in his Tweet, did not mention what type of heart condition he has.

Colasurdo enrolled in the 2020 spring semester and had been expected to compete for the position of starting quarterback, USA Today reported.

Georgia State is a member of the Sun Belt Conference, which still plans to play football this fall.

“Due to privacy laws, we cannot comment on an individual student-athlete’s health,” the GSU program said Thursday in a statement.

“Georgia State Athletics works with its medical partners to provide the best possible care to its student-athletes. The GSU medical staff regularly reviews the latest information and recommendations about SARS-CoV-2 infection in athletes, including information about cardiac concerns, and implements all relevant evaluation and treatment protocols. We believe these protocols are what will keep us safe this season.”

Citing health concerns, two “Power Five’’ conferences – the Big Ten and the Pac-12 – have decided to postpone football until the spring. Two other conferences, the Mid-American and the Mountain West, have also opted not to play football this fall.

But the other three groupings in the Power Five — the Big 12 Conference, the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which includes the University of Georgia, and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which includes Georgia Tech — still plan to play, starting next month.

Conference officials and athletics directors told ESPN that the uncertainty about the long-term effects of myocarditis has been discussed in meetings of college presidents and chancellors, commissioners and athletics directors, and health advisory board members from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and other conferences around the country.

Last week, Emory University infectious disease experts raised strong concerns about fall sports being played in areas, such as Georgia, that have high levels of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Carlos del Rio said in a video conference that many communities have COVID-19 case levels that exceed what he believes would allow for a safe return to athletic competition, ESPN reported. Del Rio serves on an NCAA COVID advisory panel.

Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, said 1 percent to 2 percent of athletes at NCAA schools tested for COVID-19 have been found to have it, ESPN reported recently. Of those, he said he knows of a dozen cases of a viral-triggered heart condition called myocarditis, which can pose a risk for sudden cardiac arrest and death.

Myocarditis has been detected in at least 15 players in the Big Ten, reported CBS Sports.

In a statement Tuesday, the Big Ten announced that “multiple factors” including the “medical advice and counsel” from its experts led to what it is deeming the postponement of the fall sports season.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, who like del Rio is an infectious disease associate professor at Emory and member of the advisory panel, said she appreciates college sports conferences that have decided to hold off on play, “because that keeps the safety of athletes as the No. 1 priority.” She said of those planning to go ahead with fall sports, “there will be transmissions [of COVID-19], and they will have to stop their games,” ESPN reported.

In addressing concerns about myocarditis, Kraft said, “We are playing with fire.”

Dr. Jonathan Kim, an Emory sports cardiologist, told reporters in a video conference last week that myocarditis is a rare inflammation of the heart muscle, typically caused by viruses. The majority of cases don’t lead to long-term health effects, he said.

Among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, about 20 percent have evidence of cardiac injury, which can include myocarditis, added Kim, who is a consultant for Georgia Tech.

Much about myocarditis – and about COVID-19 – is not known, he emphasized. “We must respect what we don’t know and what we’ve seen.’’

“When we diagnose myocarditis in athletes, what we recommend is a minimum of three months of no high-end physical training,” Kim said.

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