Soccer star Alphonso Davies won’t be available for Canada’s next set of World Cup qualifying matches later this month after he was diagnosed with an inflammation of the heart muscle, following a recent bout of COVID-19.
Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann announced during a pre-match press conference in Germany on Friday that team doctors found signs of mild myocarditis in a follow-up examination Thursday, after Davies tested positive for the coronavirus on Jan. 4.
“The myocarditis isn’t too dramatic based on the ultrasound, but more simply signs of an inflammation,” Nagelsmann said. “Nevertheless, it needs time to heal and that will no doubt take some time.”
Davies’ agent, Nick Househ, told TSN’s Rick Westhead that the 21-year-old national team standout — fully vaccinated after receiving his booster in December — feels fine but will be sidelined for at least four weeks. He will undergo weekly MRIs and Bayern’s team doctors will monitor his progress.
Davies will miss three matches as Canada attempts to qualify for the men’s World Cup for the first time since 1986: at Honduras on Jan. 27, in Hamilton against the United States on Jan. 29, and in El Salvador on Feb. 2.
Here’s a closer look at what he’s dealing with off the field.
Q How common is myocarditis related to COVID-19?
A It’s a very rare complication of COVID, says Dr. Diego Delgado, a cardiologist at the University Health Network’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. The majority of patients, he adds, recover without long-term effects. “Permanent damage of the heart is very, very rare and usually is seen in patients with underlying cardiac conditions.”
Q What are the symptoms?
A Common symptoms are chest pains, shortness of breath and palpitations, says Delgado, adding the majority of patients have minor symptoms.
Q How is it diagnosed?
A There is no single test. Doctors look at a combination of physical examinations, blood tests, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms and cardiac MRIs. The cardiac MRI is probably the most important, Delgado says.
Q Does the COVID-19 vaccine help?
A It can minimize the severity in those rare cases where a vaccinated person is diagnosed with myocarditis, the doctor says. Data published last week found the rate of myocarditis after vaccination was two per 100,000 doses.
Q How is myocarditis treated?
A For mild cases, with rest, proper hydration and sometimes anti-inflammatory medication. More severe cases require antiviral therapy and/or corticosteroids.
Q How long does it take to recover?
A Generally two to four weeks, Delgado says.
Q What would a doctor need to see before clearing an athlete to return?
A Normal cardiac MRI and blood test results.
Q What are the risks of returning too soon?
A More severe inflammation of the heart muscle, which could lead to an irregular heartbeat. Says Delgado: “It’s so important that once a patient is diagnosed with this disease, they have to be monitored very closely by a specialist.”
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