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A New Game Plan for Student Athletes Who’ve Had COVID-19
Bayhealth is a leader in keeping our community safe and healthy. For four years, Bayhealth has partnered with local high schools to screen student-athletes for sudden cardiac arrest. This is a rare but potentially tragic outcome that can occur in young people with undiagnosed heart problems engaging in high-intensity exercise. When studies emerged indicating heart problems after COVID-19 in otherwise healthy, young athletes, this triggered a new focus in cardiac screening efforts. Working together, Bayhealth and Delaware State University (DSU) Athletics have been taking important and proactive steps to screen student-athletes with a past COVID-19 infection to ensure their heart health before returning to activity.
Bayhealth is the primary hospital provider for DSU Athletics, and Sports Medicine Physician Dr. Terrence Tsui of Bayhealth Orthopaedics is the team doctor for all their athletic programs. He works closely with their athletic trainers to assess and treat sports injuries and provides care on the field at football games. Dr. Tsui also serves as the primary care doctor available to all student-athletes for a range of medical care. This may mean treating their orthopaedic condition or an illness, or helping them manage chronic conditions such as asthma or allergies.
Having a dedicated physician on site through DSU Athletics is particularly helpful to local students without an established provider and out-of-state students who are far away from a family doctor. Dr. Tsui helps ensure they receive thorough and timely care.
Since October 2020, Dr. Tsui has helped coordinate cardiac testing for close to 100 DSU student athletes with a past COVID-19 infection. Following a physical examination, the DSU athletes are referred to Bayhealth facilities where they receive an EKG, or an echocardiogram or stress test in some cases, to screen for any indication of compromised heart function. After results are evaluated, they can be cleared to resume training with their team or are referred to a Bayhealth cardiologist for further care.
Seamless coordination between the two organizations has enabled DSU Athletics to effectively address safety concerns and meet operational challenges for the benefit of its athletic programs. "COVID-19 presented challenges for every athletic department, and DSU was no exception,” said DSU Associate Athletic Director of Finance and Administration Dennis Hawkins. “We would not have been able to get through this past year without our partnership with Bayhealth. They provided us with the physicians and testing needed to ensure the safety of our student-athletes. We are truly looking forward to getting back to more normal operations in the fall and continuing to use Bayhealth's team of physicians to take care of all our student-athletes."
“Because data has indicated a heightened heart risk for athletes who’ve had COVID-19, this screening is an important precaution,” said Dr. Tsui. “Through our partnership, we’re doing much more than just making sure these student athletes are physically equipped to play sports and are safe on the field. They’re an integral part of our local community and we’re looking out for their long-term health and safety.”
Visit Bayhealth.org/Heart-and-Vascular to learn more about Bayhealth’s cardiovascular services including our cardiac testing and other capabilities. If you or a family member has had lingering side effects after COVID-19, such as shortness of breath or decreased exercise tolerance, see a doctor for evaluation.