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Georgia State football player says he has heart issue caused by COVID, will sit out season

Panthers freshman quarterback Mikele Colasurdo said on Twitter that GSU protocols helped him discover the condition.

ATLANTA — A freshman quarterback on Georgia State's football team says he will be sitting out the season after being diagnosed with a heart issue related to COVID-19.

Mikele Colasurdo credited the "procedures and tests set forth by GSU that allowed the doctors to find this condition in my heart and help keep me safe."

"I am very thankful for everyone who has reached out and prayed for me," Colasurdo wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account. "I am also incredibly thankful for coach Elliott and trainer Bob for providing a safe environment for us to train and practice."

RELATED: Emory sports cardiologist explains heart risks to athletes who have had COVID-19

Colasurdo, who was named the South Carolina Gatorade High School Player of the Year, added that he "can't wait to watch my team compete this fall and I could not be more excited to return for the 2021 season! Go Panthers!"

Due to privacy laws, GSU said it couldn't comment on "matters related to individual student-athlete health." However, the school did provide a statement to say that it is working with medical partners "to provide the best possible care to its student-athletes."

"The GSU medical staff regularly reviews the latest information and recommendations about SARS-CoV-2 infection in athletes, including information about cardiac concerns, and implements all relevant evaluation and treatment protocols," the statement said. "We believe these protocols are what will keep us safe this season."

Last week Dr. Jonathan Kim, a leading sports cardiologist who practices within the Emory Healthcare network, outlined the COVID-linked heart issues athletes can possibly face.

Colasurdo did not outline his exact diagnosis, but the most high-profile instance of an athlete opting out of playing so far is probably that of Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who developed myocarditis.

Dr. Kim described that condition as an "inflammation of heart muscle, and it's typically brought on by viral infection." 

The issue has acutely impacted college football, as the Big Ten and Pac-12 both postponed their fall seasons last week. In the Big Ten's case, ESPN reports the decision was directly linked to at least five athletes in the conference being found to have myocarditis.

Dr. Kim said the inflammation can present itself in different ways, from being hardly noticeable at all to being incredibly severe. More commonly, it's not very severe in the general population.

But the physical exertion athletes regularly undergo "can actually make the inflammation worse."

"And when you have that inflammatory process within the heart muscle, if you are engaging in high-end physical activity, that could potentially precipitate dangerous heart rhythms which could lead to a cardiac arrest or catastrophic outcome," Dr. Kim said.

"We know myocarditis is a more common cause of sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death in athletes," he added. "It's certainly something we take very seriously in athletic patients."

Early research out of China showed heart complications in as many as 20% of COVID cases. That data is still lacking in many respects - with further research in late July finding a high rate (60%) of myocardial (heart muscle) inflammation in a set of 100 German patients recovering from COVID-19. 

As we learn more, Dr. Kim said it "affirms we need to take this virus very seriously and proceed with a more conservative" view of risk.