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  • Nebraska’s Athletes Turn to Our Heart Experts for Clearance to Play Sports After COVID-19

Published on September 29, 2020

Nebraska’s athletes turn to our heart experts for clearance to play sports after COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact student-athletes, as well as the general public throughout America, with people who tested positive for the infection being quarantined and sports events being cancelled or put on hold.

With COVID-19’s potential to have long-term negative effects on athletes’ hearts, Bryan Heart and Bryan Medical Center are working with the University of Nebraska Husker teams, as well as private colleges and other universities across the state, to provide Sports Consultations for Cardiac Clearance, so athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19 can safely return to play.

Myocardial injury or damage to the heart due to COVID-19 is still being investigated, and researchers say there’s a relationship between having COVID-19 and conditions known as cytokine mediated cardiomyopathy (an immune system response that causes the heart to become enlarged, thick or rigid), acute coronary syndrome (sudden reduced blood flow to the heart) and myocarditis (inflammation of heart tissue).

Individuals who have inflammation of the heart due to the COVID-19 virus can increase their risk of damaging their heart during exercise — so testing is extremely important.

Bryan Heart cardiologist Mathue Baker, MD, is a physician champion for the field of sports cardiology. Over the past decade, part of his practice has included caring for athletes at all levels of competition. His own experience as a collegiate athlete sparked his interest in sports cardiology.

Dr. Baker is the team cardiologist for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and he serves on the Big Ten’s Cardiology Subcommittee.
No matter the sport or size of school, the athlete’s health is the top priority. Sports Consultations for Cardiac Clearance evalu-ate an athlete’s heart to help keep that individual safe. Bryan Heart and Bryan Medical Center, in conjunction with team physicians, athletic trainers and/or athletes’ primary care physicians, have the tools and expertise necessary to meet return-to-play criteria and guidelines set forth by various conferences and associations.

Besides the Huskers, Sports Consultations have been provided and are available to student-athletes at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Doane University in Crete, Hastings College, Peru State College, Concordia University, Nebraska, in Seward and other local schools.

What’s involved? Consultations have five major components:

  • High Sensitivity Troponin T – This lab test evaluates levels of cardiac enzymes that indicate potential heart damage.
  • 12-Lead EKG – Testing, using electrocardiography, evaluates electrical signals in the heart to help detect irregularities.
  • Limited Echocardiogram with Strain – This is a comprehensive evaluation of the heart’s function and structure, including its chambers and valves. Strain imaging evaluates the function of the heart muscle (myocardium), using cardiac ultrasound and identifies subtle changes.
  • Office Evaluation.
  • Cardiac MRI (if deemed necessary) – Noninvasive imaging test uses radio waves and powerful magnets to create a detailed image of the heart. This is available at Bryan Medical Center.

Athletes needing Sports Consultations for Cardiac Clearance should contact Bryan Heart at 402-483-3333.

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