Introduction/Purpose SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19) can result in myocarditis. Protocols were developed to allow competitive athletes to safely return to play (RTP) after a COVID-19 infection, but the financial impact of these protocols is unknown. Our objective was to determine the differential cost of post-COVID-19 RTP protocols for competitive collegiate athletes. Methods This multicenter retrospective cohort study of clinical evaluation of 295 athletes after COVID-19 infection was performed at four institutions with three RTP protocols. Costs were calculated using adjusted Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services pricing. All athletes underwent electrocardiogram and clinical evaluation. A tiered approach performed cardiac imaging and biomarker analysis for major symptoms. A universal transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) approach performed TTE and biomarkers for all athletes. A universal exercise stress echocardiogram (ESE) approach performed ESE and biomarkers for all athletes. Results The cost per athlete was $632.51 ± 651.80 ($44,908 total) in tiered group (n = 71), $1,072.30 ± 517.93 ($87,928 total) in the universal TTE group (n = 82), and $1357.38 ± 757.05 ($192,748 total) in the universal ESE group (n = 142) (P < 0.001). Extrapolated national costs for collegiate athletes would be $39 to 64 million higher for universal imaging approaches versus a tiered approach. Only seven athletes had probable/possible myocarditis with no significant difference between approaches. Conclusions Cardiac screening in collegiate athletes after COVID-19 infection resulted in significant cost to the health care system. A tiered-based approach was more economical, and a universal exercise echocardiogram group detected slightly more myocardial abnormalities by cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. The clinical consequences of these approaches are unknown.
- COLLEGIATE ATHLETES
- RETURN TO SPORT
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation