As the Big Ten and other Power 5 conferences decide whether or not to have fall sports, numerous factors are part of the decision. The risk of infection during the coronavirus pandemic is enough in itself to halt plans, but a potential condition linked to the virus has become a major concern for many.
Myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle, is a rare viral infection that studies have shown may be potentially linked to the coronavirus at a higher frequency than other viruses. It can be fatal if left untreated. Though uncommon, it has been found in several college athletes including five in the Big Ten, according to ESPN.
The Mid-American Conference postponed its fall season on Saturday, in part due to initial studies on Myocarditis.
"What we don't know was really haunting us, and that's why we came to our final decision," Northern Illinois athletic director Sean Frazier said. "That's part of the data that our presidents used. This mom gave us a play-by-play. That stuff is extremely scary."
With much still unknown about conditions connected to the virus, Power 5 programs and administrators are now faced with the risk of exposing their athletes and staff to complications beyond the initial infection of COVID-19.
Testing and lags are problems that exist as well, but there is a larger body of work to show how those factors can impact a person and team. As for the rare heart condition, there are still numerous unanswered questions about the long terms effects.
Though the desire is there to have football and other sports be played, many understand that the risk may outweigh the reward.
"We are collectively, as a sports nation, not quite ready to feel entirely comfortable with what that may look like for our young people down the line, and we are not going to put them in that situation," Dr. John MacKnight, the head primary care team physician at the University of Virginia, said during a recent availability.
"There have been some concerns raised for that very reason: Do you not have uneasiness about having athletes participating knowing that you don't know what that longer-range outlook is? The answer is of course, yes," MacKnight said. "We don't have enough information to say this is the likelihood that this will or will not happen."
So while some players and coaches are campaigning for a season, reports that the Big Ten and others may soon announce the cancellation of the season run deeper than the fear of infection. Though that is a concern, there are additional, long term problems that could arise.
It's a legitimate concern, and one that could derail the fall season for college sports.
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