College Sports Has Serious Risks for Athletes

When President Trump was in New Hampshire for a campaign rally two weeks ago, he implored the Big 10 athletic directors to reconsider their recent decision to postpone their college football season from fall until the spring.

“Big Ten, get with it! Open up your season, Big Ten. These are young strong guys – they’re not gonna’ be affected by the virus…These are big, strong guys. They will be just fine,” Trump said.

However, as with so many comments made by Trump these past seven months concerning the coronavirus, the reality is the opposite of Trump’s pronouncements.

At least 10 Big 10 football players have been diagnosed with myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart muscle caused by a Covid-19 infection. This is the same condition that has afflicted Red Sox star starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who contracted Covid-19 on August 1 and who now suffers from myocarditis, forcing him to end his season.

Rodriguez is 27 years old and was an otherwise healthy young man who won 19 games for the Sox in 2019. However, the virus invaded his heart, as it has with so many others who have contracted this dreaded disease, and forced him to rest and recuperate.

We are learning more and more every day about the damage that Covid-19 does to just about every human organ, but one thing that has become clear is that the heart muscle is a favorite site for it to attack. A recent study in Germany showed that of 100 otherwise-healthy persons under the age of 49, 76 percent suffered damage consistent with the effects of a heart attack.

Another study recently demonstrated that there are certain, long-stringed cells unique to the heart that the virus attacks, chopping them up into tiny pieces. It is not clear whether the heart can repair this damage or whether it is permanent.

Further, as to football players in particular, while it may be true, as Trump proclaimed, that as a group they are “big strong guys,” many of them are, to put it bluntly, grossly obese, weighing upwards of 350 pounds if they are linemen.

One thing we definitely know about the virus is that the single-biggest risk factor for a serious outcome from Covid-19 is being overweight — and that would seem to place many college football players at serious jeopardy if they contract the disease.

If college football can put into place procedures that isolate football players from their campuses (where Covid-19 has been running wild in some places since schools reopened), then perhaps football can be played without risk to the young athletes.

But to encourage them to play as things stand now is simply reckless behavior that places them in jeopardy of serious, lifelong consequences affecting their health.

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