Fact Check: Have deaths among athletes increased due to vaccine related myocarditis?

Quick Take

Several social media posts have claimed that the Covid-19 vaccines have increased the number of athletes collapsing or dying due to myocarditis. We fact-checked and found that the claim is false.

The Claim

“Worldwide surge of sports people suffering sudden health issues and death,” reads a blog. The claim has been shared in multiple forms across social media. Such posts can be seen here, here, here, here and here.

Fact Check

What is myocarditis?

Myocarditis is a health condition that causes inflammation of heart muscles due to a viral infection and reduces the ability of the heart to pump.

Can COVID-19 vaccine cause myocarditis?

Yes. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized myocarditis as rare but with possible side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The CDC website mentions, “The cases of myocarditis reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) have occurred after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), especially in male adolescents and young adults, more often after the second dose, and usually within a week of vaccination.”

Is there an increased number of deaths due to vaccine related myocarditis?

No. There is no data that shows death due to myocarditis in athletes has increased recently.

Myocarditis has been a common reason for death among sportspersons even before COVID-19 vaccines were not invented. There have been multiple cases of myocarditis listed in young athletes even in the past.

The Oxford Medicine website notes, “Clinical data linking strenuous prolonged exercise to manifestation of myocarditis and deterioration in health have not been assessed in humans, but clinical experience clearly shows this relationship. Mild forms of myocarditis or perimyocarditis are more likely to be involved, because of their relatively high prevalence in athletes.”

The website further states myocarditis can be difficult to diagnose among athletes in certain cases due to ‘higher heart rates at rest and during comparable exercise intensities, experience muscle soreness, and reduced general ‘drive’’.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has confirmed to Reuters that they have not received reports about any increased death due to myocarditis among footballers.

Dr Kiran Kulkarni

Dr Kiran Kulkarni, FIFA- AFC Medical Officer, and Consultant in Sports & Exercise Medicine from Dharwad, Karnataka, says, “In India, no case of Myocarditis has been reported in athletic population till now. It could be because of lack of screening and also after getting vaccinated athletes don’t go for heavy training. We might get to know the true picture in coming months.”

That said, some experts have noted that the claim of increased death among athletes due to vaccine related myocarditis is a “hypothesis driven by anecdotal reports that are definitely worth following up on.”

Dr Kulkarni suggests, “All athletes who had COVID-19 infection should get a series of Heart Tests like Cardiac MRI, Echo, ECG, done along with Blood tests as advised by their sports doctor or a Cardiologist, before returning to play.”

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