Florida's Keyontae Johnson diagnosed with heart inflammation following collapse at game
Florida forward Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed on the court during a game Dec. 12 at Florida State University, has been diagnosed with a heart inflammation that may be related to an earlier infection for COVID-19.
Following the collapse that left Johnson unresponsive, he was transferred last Monday from Tallahassee Memorial to UF Health in Gainesville, where an MRI on his heart led to a diagnosis of acute myocarditis, according to a person with first-hand knowledge. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Previous coverage:Keyontae Johnson being released from hospital
And:FL postpones rest of its non-conference schedule as Johnson on mend
Johnson, the SEC’s preseason player of the year, is expected to be out for a minimum of three months and will likely miss the rest of the 2020-21 season. His parents, Nika and Marrecus Johnson, announced Tuesday that he was being released from the hospital and would spend Christmas with them as a family.
“We continue to be amazed at the pace of his recovery,” the family’s statement said. “Along with so many well wishes and prayers, we've understandably gotten questions about the cause and extent of Keyontae’s illness. As much as everyone involved wants firm answers, the process to draw definitive conclusions continues, and we ask for patience as the medical professionals continue their work.
“We are committed to sharing not only updates on Keyontae but also any information we think could help others. When we have that, we will share it. Until then, we continue to be grateful for the care and support Keyontae is receiving.”
Prior to their statement, The Sun messaged Johnson’s father in an attempt to confirm his son’s health status. He read the message but did not respond.
Thanks:University of Florida takes full-page ad thanking Florida State, others who helped Keyontae Johnson
The heart inflammation, called myocarditis, has various causes, most commonly viral infections. It has been linked to COVID-19.
Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 during the summer, along with several of his teammates. UF athletes who’ve been infected must complete a cardiac evaluation that includes an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram and a blood test that can reveal evidence of cardiac problems before being cleared to play, according to SEC protocols.
The Sun reached out to UF athletics director Scott Stricklin on Tuesday regarding Johnson’s condition, but he was unavailable for comment.
“At Florida, we do an EKG and an echo on every athlete that comes to us, so we have that on record already. So if someone gets COVID, and we repeat this cardiac workup, we are able to compare back to what they were when they came in as a freshman or transfer here. So we have a pretty good idea if there were any changes,” Florida team physician, Dr. Jay Clugston, told TV20 in August. “There does seem to be more cases or cardiac effects from this virus than maybe we have seen from others, although, we are looking a lot more closely than we have in the past. I think all of us are cautious about it.”
While Johnson’s acute myocarditis can’t be definitively linked to his COVID diagnosis, it could prompt the SEC and other conferences to further test athletes who have contracted the virus on concern the inflammation could develop later. Miami starting safety Al Blades Jr. was diagnosed with post-COVID myocarditis earlier this month after receiving a cardiac MRI, and concerns over the condition factored into the initial decision by the Big Ten, Pac-12 and other leagues to postpone fall sports.
“If it had something to do with COVID, I would say every coach in the country would like to know,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of Johnson’s collapse to Sports Illustrated earlier this week.
Johnson’s parents announced last Tuesday that he had started breathing on his own and speaking after reportedly being in a medically induced coma. In a statement Thursday, Stricklin said Johnson had continued showing “truly encouraging signs of progress” as he underwent tests.
Johnson spoke out for the first time since collapsing in a video message Friday, thanking his doctors and fans for their support.
"I know y'all have been sending your prayers out the last few weeks, and me and my parents are very grateful for the prayers that have been going out. To all doctors and medical staff at Tallahassee Memorial and UF Shands, I just want to say thank you for all the support y'all gave me,” Johnson said in the video. "To my Gator Nation and UF athletic family, I just wanted to thank you for all the prayers that y'all gave out to me.”
Johnson earned first-team All-SEC honors last season after leading the Gators with 14.0 points per game. Florida has postponed its remaining non-conference games and is scheduled to return to play Dec. 30 at Vanderbilt.