HSC, Texas Wesleyan University collaborate to return athletes recovered from COVID-19 safely back to playing field

By Diane Smith-Pinckney

Dr. Laine MarkhamSixty Texas Wesleyan University athletes have completed athletic screenings through a new partnership with The University of North Texas Health Science Center (HSC) at Fort Worth.

The project screens TXWES athletes who have had COVID-19 so they can return to sports.

As of Dec. 3, four more athletes were in the process of being assessed and had tests pending.

“We completed the initial round of 44 ECGs, in a 9-day period between Sept. 2 through Sept. 11 with very short notice,” said Laine Markham, MMS, PA-C | Clinical Instructor, Physician Assistant for HSC Health.

The HSC Health Cardiovascular Medicine Clinic is conducting screenings.

If any significant abnormalities are identified, athletes consult with a cardiology provider and get a cardiac MRI.

“The importance of having a cardiac evaluation before returning to high intensity sports is because COVID-19 can cause a condition called viral myocarditis,” explained PA Markham. “This condition leads to inflammation of the heart muscle and can leave tiny scars. These increase risk for dangerous life-threatening heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death.”

Health experts are getting an opportunity to learn more about the virus and COVID-19 recovery.

“There is still much to learn about the effects of COVID-19 on the student-athlete,” said Peter Brock, MSEd, ATC, LAT and Head Athletic Trainer at TXWES. “Ensuring the health and safety of each student-athlete is our highest priority and requiring each student-athlete to complete cardiac testing before returning to competition helps us achieve that goal.”

PA Markham said health workers define “normal” findings in testing based on the average adults. They are learning to interpret how COVID-19 affects the hearts of athletes.

“But the hearts of college athletes are not average hearts which makes abnormal test results more challenging to interpret. Are the outliers due to the patient being an athlete or having had COVID-19? It can be hard to tell, especially when there is no baseline pre-COVID-19 testing to compare to, so we use an abundance of caution.”

COVID recovery has emerged as a national health issue during this pandemic.

PA Markham said weekend warriors or casual exercisers who have recovered from COVID-19 should seek a follow-up from their primary care providers and consider getting an ECG and echocardiogram if they experience new or unusual chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitations they developed following the illness.

HSC Health is also partnering with the Cleveland HeartLab, Inc. as part of the project with TXWES.

“We can’t thank HSC enough for their willingness to partner with Texas Wesleyan Athletics,” Brock said.

The screening team includes Physician Assistant Laine Markham; Geoffrey Kline, DO, PhD cardiologist; Terri Patterson, Medical Assistant; Kendra Hale, Front Desk Representative; Leonora Salazar, Clinic Manager for Cardiology; Tina Hay, Clinical Coordinator; Vicki Cannon, Executive Director of Clinical Services and Joanne Mize, Executive Director of Clinical Operations.

HSC Health is the clinical component of the health science center. Medical services offered by HSC Health include primary care family medicine, geriatrics and pediatrics, along with several specialties, including cardiology, gastroenterology, dermatology, sports medicine and osteopathic manipulation.

Recent News

Dr. Kenebl At James L West
  • Our People
|Oct 6, 2022

Dr. Janice Knebl named Dementia Education Advocate of the Year by the James L. West Center for Dementia Care

In a ceremony earlier this week, The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s Dr. Janice Knebl was named the Dementia Education Advocate of the Year by the James L. West Center for Dementia Care. In August, the center will turn 30 years old. Since its inception, Knebl ha...
Hsc Campus Ead News Banner
  • Research
|Oct 3, 2022

HSC Institute for Translational Research awarded $148.78 million grant from NIH to study biology of Alzheimer’s in ethnically diverse groups

The Institute for Translational Research at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth is the recipient of a five-year grant of up to $148.78 million from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. The grant will fund one of the largest studies...
Malinee Neelamegam Unt Health Science Center Hsc Heads Up October 2021
  • Our People
|Sep 28, 2022

Exploring the stories of epidemiology to find public health solutions

Working in epidemiology is like solving a puzzle or telling a story. Epidemiologists are often called “disease detectives,” using research, analysis and communication to investigate the causes of a public health concern and look for solutions.    Dr. Malinee Neelamegam, assistant profe...
Dr. Yockey Scaled
  • Our People
|Sep 27, 2022

Is adolescent gambling a concern? HSC researcher Dr. Andrew Yockey says yes

A new study on adolescent gambling and associated health behavior risks by HSC public health researcher Dr. Andrew Yockey was published in the Journal of Gambling Issues. The piece presents concerns for parents of students ages 12-17 who have interests or experiences with various types of gaming for...