DALLAS, January 12, 2021 — The American Heart Association and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) are joining forces to accelerate a critical new research initiative studying cardiac conditions in athletes, in part to speed new insights into the impact of COVID-19 to the cardiovascular system of college athletes and safety of return to play after diagnosis.

Sports medicine and cardiology experts at Harvard and the University of Washington have formed a national registry, or research database, to track COVID-19 cases and heart-related impacts in NCAA athletes to drive improvements in screening and inform our understanding of cardiac involvement in college athletes with prior infections. The newly launched Outcomes Registry for Cardiac Conditions in Athletes (ORCCA) has already collected data from more than 3,000 athletes.

The American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, will use its Precision Medicine Platform (PMP), a secure cloud-computing platform hosted by the Association’s Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine to facilitate the research. 

“There have been many high-profile cases of athletes at the collegiate and professional levels showing myocarditis, a dangerous inflammation of the heart, after COVID-19,” said Mariell Jessup, MD, FAHA, cardiologist and chief science and medical officer for the American Heart Association. “Research and data are key to answering the ongoing debate in college sports about the safety of return to play and guidelines on the appropriate assessment of the athletes.”

The research team is led by three primary investigators:

  • Jonathan Drezner, MD, Department of Family Medicine, Center for Sports Cardiology, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Kimberly Harmon, MD, Department of Family Medicine, Center for Sports Cardiology, University of Washington, Seattle
  • Aaron Baggish, MD, Cardiovascular Performance Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

“Many college athletes are students of color, coming from communities with higher risk factors for COVID-19 complications,” said Stephanie Kliethermes, PhD, research director of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the AMSSM Collaborative Research Network. “This registry is an exciting and important starting point for the long-term investigation of cardiac outcomes in a diverse group of athletes diagnosed with COVID-19 and other heart conditions which present a potential health risk.”

The collaborative data registry will aid research on COVID-19, and, long-term, develop a deep knowledge base on cardiac disease in athletes beyond the pandemic. The registry has been developed with participation from the NCAA and has more than 60 schools currently contributing to the registry.

Schools interested to participate or learn more about the registry can send an inquiry to: ncaa.cardiac@mgh.harvard.edu.

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About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1. 

About the AMSSM:

AMSSM is a multi-disciplinary organization of sports medicine physicians dedicated to education, research, advocacy and the care of athletes of all ages.  The majority of AMSSM members are primary care physicians with fellowship training and added qualification in sports medicine who then combine their practice of sports medicine with their primary specialty.  AMSSM includes members who specialized solely in non-surgical sports medicine and serve as team physicians at the youth level, NCAA, NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, and NHL, as well as with Olympic and Paralympic teams.  By nature of their training and experience, sports medicine physicians are ideally suited to provide comprehensive medical care for athletes, sports teams or active individuals who are simply looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The AMSSM Collaborative Research Network highlights AMSSM’s commitment to research and aims to foster collaborative research to advance the clinical practice of sports medicine.  www.amssm.org

For Media Inquiries and AHA/ASA Expert Perspective: 214-706-1173

Karen Springs – karen.springs@heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and strokeassociation.org