Florida doctor discusses 'myocarditis' dangers after UF basketball star collapses

A Central Florida doctor discussed myocarditis, a heart condition that may be caused by COVID-19, with FOX 35 after a University of Florida (UF) basketball star -- who previously had the virus -- collapsed on the court over the weekend.

The scary scene took place early in the first half of the game between the in-state rivals. Keyontae Johnson, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, started off the game hot. He was 2-of-3 from the floor with five points before the incident occurred.  

Johnson had just dunked in transition before he fell to the floor as the team broke its huddle. Several Gators were in tears and a couple buried their faces in towels as coach Mike White gathered his team to say a prayer.  The game continued a few minutes later.

He remained in critical but stable condition at a hospital, the team reported on Sunday.

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Like most of his teammates, Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 during the summer. Although the cause of Johnson's ailment was not immediately known, the coronavirus can lead to myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart muscle. At its most severe, myocarditis can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and has been a documented cause of death for young, otherwise healthy athletes.

Keyontae Johnson #11 of the Florida Gators in action against the LSU Tigers at Stephen C. O'Connell Center on February 26, 2020 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Family practice physician Dr. Jason Littleton explained that with COVID-19, “the concern is the person could have myocarditis, which could cause collapse or even sudden death.”

It is still not known why Johnson collapsed yet but some doctors believe he may have myocarditis.

“Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it’s caused by a virus -- particularly coronavirus is one of the viruses that can lead to that,” Littleton said. “Not just COVID-19, but coronavirus in general.”

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Dr. Jason Littleton said it’s important that any athlete who has had coronavirus undergoes testing to make sure they are cleared to play.

“A person collapses or has sudden cardiac death, they may not have any warning signs before that,” Littleton said. “So you have to be cautious because you may not have those symptoms that we talked about because there may not be any warning that’s why you have to have to go through strenuous testing.”


Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest coronavirus news.