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Report: Heart condition possibly linked to COVID-19 driving concerns about college sports

An inflammation of the heart called myocarditis has been discovered in at least 5 Big Ten athletes and among several others in other conferences, ESPN reports.

A rare condition that causes inflammation of the heart muscle and which could be linked to COVID-19 has been a central concern for Power 5 conference leaders deliberating a return to college sports in the fall, according to ESPN. 

The condition known as myocarditis has been discovered in at least five athletes in the Big Ten Conference along with "several other" college athletes in other conferences, ESPN reported while citing two sources familiar with the athletes' medical care. 

The condition, if left undiagnosed, can cause heart damage and cardiac arrest. 

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

ESPN and Sports Illustrated reported that long-term effects of myocarditis have been discussed frequently on recent calls among conference commissioners and athletic directors. 

One Power 5 team doctor told Sports Illustrated that the heart condition has been discussed on "every call.” 

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

While most COVID-19-related myocarditis cases in athletes have remained private, Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodríguez will miss the entire 2020 MLB season because of heart inflammation caused by COVID-19. 

As college officials debate over the fate of fall sports, college football players across the country have been participating in a social media push in an attempt to save their season and ensure they will no longer be left out of the sport's biggest decisions.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.