I’ve noticed that anti-vaccine activists are pushing a trope that athletes are collapsing on the field after getting one of the COVID-19 vaccines. I watch a lot of sports and read a lot of sports news, so if this were really happening, I would have noticed.
I have to pick and choose which dumb anti-vaccine myths I need to debunk. But since I love sports and I know that the COVID vaccines are safe and effective, I thought I’d look into it. And what I found was, as you might expect, nothing. It’s just one of those myths that anti-vaxxers make appear as factual but isn’t.
Let’s take a look at this silly myth.
The collapsing athletes COVID-19 vaccines myth
What is happening is that anti-vaxxers are sharing videos and photos of athletes fainting on the field. They are mostly focused on European soccer (or football if you must) players who just collapse or faint on the field. And the people who are posting these images are implying, or outright stating, that it results from these athletes receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Note, I continue my policy of not linking to any anti-vaccine website because they don’t deserve hits from me, so if you want to read about this, Google is your friend. But don’t bother, as you will soon find out.
- They contacted FIFA, the governing body for soccer, said they were unaware of any increase in cardiac events among their athletes.
- FIFA also said that there were no reports of these cases linked to any of the COVID-19 vaccines.
- They stated, “FIFA is not aware of a rise in episodes of cardiac arrests as indicated in your email and no cases have been flagged in relation to individuals receiving a COVID vaccine. Generally speaking, FIFA is in regular contact with leading research centres and experts to do research on a variety of medical topics.”
- Myocarditis and pericarditis are extremely rare conditions that may be linked to COVID-19 vaccines — none of the athletes in these photos and videos were diagnosed with either condition.
- The Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) organisation, a British charity that funds medical research and supports families of young people affected by heart conditions, told Reuters they were “not aware” of any published or peer-reviewed researched into alleged links between sudden cardiac arrests in athletes and COVID-19 vaccines.
- Snopes reviewed a video that included several images of soccer athletes collapsing and checked on the actual condition of them. Most suffered from heat exhaustion or dehydration, and none of them were linked to cardiovascular events after vaccination.
Both Reuters and Snopes have done a thorough job of debunking this ridiculous myth from the anti-vaccine world. There is just nothing here that links any of these athletes with any of the COVID-19 vaccines. Many of the athletes were not even vaccinated.
Even PolitiFact got in on this:
And even if they were vaccinated, and even if there was some link between the vaccine and these collapses, they are cherry-picking the few athletes who have collapsed compared to the several thousand who have been vaccinated and have not collapsed. In other words, if this were a real issue, and it isn’t, it’s still a tiny percentage. But, as you have read above, it’s been thoroughly debunked.
The National Football League, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association have +90% vaccination rates among their athletes. If there was some mysterious adverse effect from the COVID-19 vaccines that target premiere athletes, we would be seeing it all over ESPN and other sports news outlets. Yet, we didn’t see that.
Reuters, Snopes, and PolitiFact all looked into this situation in detail, and most of the images were of athletes who collapse for reasons that most athletes do — exhaustion, dehydration, and other issues not related to vaccines. There have been several peer-reviewed articles that examined the reasons for sudden cardiac death in athletes — all published well before the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is just another ridiculous and desperate attempt by anti-vaxxers to attack the new COVID-19 vaccines. All they are doing is passing along fear, uncertainty, and doubt in a vain attempt to scare people.
- Asif IM, Harmon KG. Incidence and Etiology of Sudden Cardiac Death: New Updates for Athletic Departments. Sports Health. 2017 May/Jun;9(3):268-279. doi: 10.1177/1941738117694153. Epub 2017 Feb 1. PMID: 28452637; PMCID: PMC5435153.
- DeFroda SF, McDonald C, Myers C, Cruz AI, Owens BD, Daniels AH. Sudden Cardiac Death in the Adolescent Athlete: History, Diagnosis, and Prevention. Am J Med. 2019 Dec;132(12):1374-1380. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2019.05.025. Epub 2019 Jun 12. PMID: 31199891.
- Emery MS, Kovacs RJ. Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes. JACC Heart Fail. 2018 Jan;6(1):30-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jchf.2017.07.014. PMID: 29284578.
- Wasfy MM, Hutter AM, Weiner RB. Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes. Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc J. 2016 Apr-Jun;12(2):76-80. doi: 10.14797/mdcj-12-2-76. PMID: 27486488; PMCID: PMC4969030.
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