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Diego Ulissi will take “a temporary break from competitive activity to carry out cardiac checks related to the development of myocarditis,” UAE-Team Emirates announced on Monday.
As UAE doctor Michele De Grandi points out in a team press release, “Myocarditis is an inflammation of the myocardial tissue, the heart muscle, usually of viral origin.” While myocarditis is most often mild, it can sometimes cause severe complications, and it can be particularly dangerous for athletes. Lately, myocarditis concerns for athletes have been in the headlines due to the condition’s incidence in those infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Ulissi received the myocarditis diagnosis after undergoing standard medical checks ahead of the upcoming season.
“Diego underwent the normal health checks required by the UCI and the team,” De Grandi said. “Subjectively he was fine and did not feel any disturbance, but the finding of an irregular heartbeat during a physical exertion, not previously present, gave us some doubt. Even with a normal ultrasound appearance, two new tests (Holter ECG 24 hours, which highlighted further arrhythmias, and a cardiac MRI scan) have drawn a conclusion of myocarditis.”
Due to the diagnosis, Ulissi will be off the bike for “a few months.” The news comes at the end of a strong 2020 campaign that saw him win two stages at the Giro d’Italia and the overall title at the Tour de Luxembourg, among several other strong results.
“I cannot hide the feeling of worry and anger. I’ve never had any sign of it, I’ve always felt good; Fortunately, the team’s medical staff were quick to act and discovered this abnormality. I will take a break now which I hope will be temporary, bearing in mind that the priority is health, because life does not end with cycling.
“I have just finished what has perhaps been my best season ever, with a consistent run of high level performances from January to October which also earned me the Top Ten in the UCI individual ranking,” Ulissi said. “I was already beginning my preparation for 2021 with the desire to build on last years results.
“Now, however, I find myself facing this unexpected situation. I think my state of mind is understandable for everyone.
“A heartfelt thanks to all at UAE Team Emirates who are taking great care of me through this unfortunate time.”