Is cardiac involvement prevalent in highly trained athletes after SARS-CoV-2 infection? A cardiac magnetic resonance study using sex-matched and age-matched controls

Br J Sports Med. 2022 May;56(10):553-560. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2021-104576. Epub 2021 Nov 30.


Objectives: To investigate the cardiovascular consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection in highly trained, otherwise healthy athletes using cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging and to compare our results with sex-matched and age-matched athletes and less active controls.

Methods: SARS-CoV-2 infection was diagnosed by PCR on swab tests or serum immunoglobulin G antibody tests prior to a comprehensive CMR examination. The CMR protocol contained sequences to assess structural, functional and tissue-specific data.

Results: One hundred forty-seven athletes (94 male, median 23, IQR 20-28 years) after SARS-CoV-2 infection were included. Overall, 4.7% (n=7) of the athletes had alterations in their CMR as follows: late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) showing a non-ischaemic pattern with or without T2 elevation (n=3), slightly elevated native T1 values with or without elevated T2 values without pathological LGE (n=3) and pericardial involvement (n=1). Only two (1.4%) athletes presented with definite signs of myocarditis. We found pronounced sport adaptation in both athletes after SARS-CoV-2 infection and athlete controls. There was no difference between CMR parameters, including native T1 and T2 mapping, between athletes after SARS-CoV-2 infection and the matched athletic groups. Comparing athletes with different symptom severities showed that athletes with moderate symptoms had slightly greater T1 values than athletes with asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic infections (p<0.05). However, T1 mapping values remained below the cut-off point for most patients.

Conclusion: Among 147 highly trained athletes after SARS-CoV-2 infection, cardiac involvement on CMR showed a modest frequency (4.7%), with definite signs of myocarditis present in only 1.4%. Comparing athletes after SARS-CoV-2 infection and healthy sex-matched and age-matched athletes showed no difference between CMR parameters, including native T1 and T2 values.

Keywords: COVID-19; athletes; heart.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • COVID-19*
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Gadolinium
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Male
  • Myocarditis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium