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The Health Freedom Defense Fund urged the association in a recent letter to implement screening because the vaccines can cause myocarditis, a form of heart inflammation. Young males are the most at risk.
Most NFL players received a COVID-19 vaccine under pressure from teams and the league.
“Safety signals illustrate that the near and long-term health outcomes of the COVID-19 vaccines remain uncertain,” Leslie Manookian, president and founder of the fund, told DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the association (NFLPA), in the missive.
“A multitude of adverse reactions to these injections, including myocarditis, are wide ranging and confirmed, and as such, prudence dictates that the NFLPA investigate the extent to which the COVID-19 shots may have resulted in injury, compromised health or death of players,” Manookian said.
She pointed out that Damar Hamlin, a safety for the Buffalo Bills, suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during a Monday Night Football game in January. The reason for the incident remains unknown; Hamlin declined to convey what his doctors told him during a recent televised interview. Former NFL players have also suffered heart attacks and strokes following vaccination.
The NFLPA should introduce “a testing and screening program to determine whether players have been adversely affected by the injections and to develop a set of functional medical protocols and treatments in order to address and heal any deleterious effects of the vaccines,” Manookian said.
The NFLPA declined to comment to The Epoch Times.
The association has not responded to the letter, which was sent via email and regular mail, Manookian told The Epoch Times.
Former NFL player Ken Ruettgers, who started the Voices for Medical Freedom podcast, previously warned an associate who works for the NFLPA of post-vaccination cardiac events and offered to connect the group with doctors with knowledge of the issues.
The associate thanked Reuttgers but did not accept the offer, Reuttgers told The Epoch Times.
“The challenge is, it’s almost like a fighter pilot that, ‘I don’t want to be tested because if I come up positive, I don’t want to be grounded,’” Reuttgers said.
Ken Ruettgers of the Green Bay Packers in his stance during a game in Green Bay, Wis., on Sept. 17, 1995. (Jonathan Daniel/Allsport)
Manookian informed the NFLPA that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration placed a warning regarding myocarditis and a related condition, pericarditis, on the labels for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. She also pointed to research papers on post-vaccination myocarditis.
Among them: a study by Florida authorities that found a jump in cardiac-related deaths among the vaccinated; a study that found an increased risk of myocarditis and myopericarditis after a second dose of Pfizer’s vaccine and the first and second doses of Moderna’s vaccine, with the highest risk in young males; a reanalysis of the original clinical trials that found a higher number of serious adverse events of special interest among the vaccinated; and experts in Germany reporting, after analyzing autopsies, that some of the deceased likely died from vaccine-induced myocarditis.
“We have a growing body of scientific evidence showing that there is a risk to young males in particular, and many of them have some critical cardiac problems,” Manookian said.
The NFLPA did the right thing when it comes to concussions, supporting stronger protections for players, she said. “I think that we should be doing the same thing with respect to these COVID injections and the potential for subclinical cardiac issues,” she said.
Buffalo Bills fans hold signs in support of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin during a game against the New England Patriots at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, on Jan. 8, 2023. (Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Dr. Anish Koka, a cardiologist based in Philadelphia, reviewed the letter.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the NFL Players Association to at least consider the fact that young healthy men now are such low risk of COVID, do you want to take the risk of myocarditis related to the vaccine?” Koka told The Epoch Times.
Still, Koka advised against screening all players.
“If you randomly screen a bunch of NFL players with an MRI, you’re going to see some bright spots show up and you’re not going to have any real hard idea whether or not this is something real. And it could affect the career in terms of, does a team want to sign this player who has some questionable abnormality on a cardiac MRI? That would be terrible. So you don’t want to do that,” Koka said. “So you have to be really, really careful about how you screen these folks and make sure that you don’t end people’s careers for no reason.”
COVID-19 can also lead to myocarditis and heart issues, according to some research. Other papers indicate COVID-19 infection does not lead to an increase of myocarditis or pericarditis. Autopsy data has not supported the idea that COVID-19 heightens the risk, according to Koka.
Screening can lead to an increase in myocarditis detection. MRI screening led to a 7.4-time increase in detection among college athletes over symptom-based screening, according to one study.
Manookian said it is important to discover whether players have myocarditis but said the screening should be voluntary, not mandatory.
“This is about raising awareness about a potential health problem and providing the opportunity for the players to have access to testing and screening. And if a problem is determined, then some kind of healing protocol for them,” she said.
Rest is generally the main component of myocarditis recovery. Medicine is typically prescribed for recovery from cardiac arrest.
If an athlete with myocarditis passes certain cardiac tests and doesn’t have arrhythmias after six months, according to Koka, then they could potentially play again. Five athletes for whom suggestions of myocarditis or pericarditis were found returned to play without cardiac injury, researchers reported in 2021. It’s unclear whether Hamlin will return. He told ABC that’s his goal.
By Zachary Stieber