Lee Burge: Sunderland goalkeeper out for four or five weeks with heart issue

Lee Burge has made nine appearances for Sunderland this season

Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge is expected to remain sidelined for another four or five weeks because of a heart issue.

Burge suffered heart palpitations after recently falling ill with Covid-19.

"He has a slightly inflamed heart," explained manager Lee Johnson, who added that the 29-year-old is expected to make a full recovery.

"He'll miss the next four or five weeks before undergoing tests to check that things are back to normal."

Although Johnson did not identify Burge's exact issue, myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis an inflammation of the heart lining, with symptoms including the new onset of chest pain, shortness of breath or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart.

Johnson suggested Burge's issue could have been caused by either the virus or the vaccine, but although government figures external-link state that the reporting rate for those suspected to have myocarditis or pericarditis post vaccine is highest in the 18-29 age bracket, cases remain low.

For those vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech in all age groups there are 11 myocarditis cases per million doses, and eight pericarditis cases per million doses, while for those vaccinated with Moderna the rate is 39 cases per million doses and 22 cases per million doses respectively.

There have been five fatal cases in total; three after a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and two following an AstraZeneca jab. There are no cases of deaths following a Moderna vaccine

"It seems to happen a lot after these injections or potentially Covid, I'm not sure exactly what it is [that causes the condition]," Johnson told BBC Look North.

"The weighting would be on Covid. But you can't rule out, I suppose, vaccination. I don't know, I'm not a doctor.

"I just get the information and my first thought is obviously with a player to make sure: a) he's fit and well and survives it well and could have a long career; and b) to get him back as soon as possible feeling good."

In December, the English Football League revealed that vaccine data collected the previous month showed 75% of players were either fully vaccinated, had had a single jab or intended to be vaccinated.

However, 25% of players said they "currently do not intend to get a vaccine".

Dr Stewart Findlay, the clinical director of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the North East and North Cumbria, responsible for the roll-out across the region, said he could understand why footballers, who as athletes have to be careful with what they consume and do with their bodies, would have some concerns about a vaccine.

But he urged people to focus on the data and the facts rather than conjecture.

"We need to remember it is a very rare condition; very rare after the vaccine," he said.

"Eighteen percent of people admitted to hospital with Covid have myocarditis so it's much more likely [to be picked up] if you develop the infection, rather than have the vaccine."

While Dr Findlay confirmed that conditions such as myocarditis can still occur after the vaccine, the severity is likely to be far lower than an unvaccinated case.

"The risks of developing a serious illness after the vaccine are very, very low," he continued. "It's very rare that you will get myocarditis in the first place, and it tends to be very mild.

"Myocarditis is not uncommon in the normal population, it can be brought on by things like flu, coxsackie viral infections, herpes virus infections and some people also develop an auto-immune form of myocarditis.

"It looks like the vaccine and the Covid-related myocarditis is along the lines of the auto-immune version. But we can't rely on anecdotes, we have to look at the hard facts.

"The hard facts are that you are much safer having the vaccine and that it protects you from not only having myocarditis but the other side effects of this dreadful virus."

There has been work done to study the long-term consequences of the two conditions, while existing evidence shows most patients with myocarditis post vaccination respond well to treatment and have good chance of full recovery, according to the government data.external-link

"The care of the individual has to be at the forefront of your thinking because you don't want something dreadful happening to one of your players," added Johnson.

"If there is any sign of heart fluttering or a player not feeling quite right then we get the full checks done. Luckily we've got it early and he can rest and should make a full recovery very quickly."

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