Medical clearance now required for teen athletes after testing positive for COVID-19

The requirement applies to jr. high and high school athletes due to studies that show significant cardiac complications after a COVID-19 infection.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Activities Association is now requiring junior high and high school athletes to get medical clearance after testing positive for COVID-19.

This means athletes cannot return to their sport until they’ve been cleared by a physician.

RELATED: Spread of COVID-19 causing Arkansas high school sports cancellations

Whether you’re under the stadium lights or competing on the court, your heart is working hard to become stronger. But doctors now find this could be bad for athletes who are recovering from COVID-19.

“There’s more evidence over the past several months that there’s significant cardiac potential complication after a COVID-19 infection,” said Dr. Michael Israel with Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Israel has found through a study that 15% of mildly or asymptomatic college athletes had signs of cardiac inflammation.

“We have created a system to try to identify these individuals that could potentially be impacted by the cardiac involvement after a COVID-19 infection,” said Israel.

Israel has partnered with AAA to jumpstart the new medical clearance requirement for teen athletes.

This means they’ll be examined by a doctor 14 days after symptoms resolve.

The doctor will look for any abnormalities or risk factors from the patient’s history.

They could then be referred to a cardiologist based on the exam results.

“Significant inflammation can be a risk factor for sudden cardiac death. So, this is something we obviously want to avoid and identify these patients,” said Israel.

Dr. Israel said there’s not enough evidence at this point to know how big the risk factor is, until they have more, they plan to use caution.

RELATED: AAA now allowing spirit squads to hit the road for high school football games

“We are looking out for the health of our athletes,” said Israel.

Once athletes are cleared to go back to their sport, they are then required to use seven days to gradually work back to full exercise.