Family: Keyontae Johnson’s collapse unrelated to COVID-19

Sports

Florida’s Keyontae Johnson is shown on the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 19. 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida standout Keyontae Johnson has one of the best seats in the O’Connell Center. He’s just a few feet from the court, close enough to hear calls, see screens coming and know where the ball needs to go next. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida forward Keyontae Johnson’s collapse during a game nearly two months ago was not related to a positive COVID-19 test, his family said Wednesday.

University of Florida Health physicians consulted with other local and national experts who reviewed the relevant imaging and testing related to this case, and Johnson’s family said: “The unanimous conclusion of all experts is that Keyontae’s medical emergency was not related to or a result of a previous or current Covid diagnosis.”

The family did not say what doctors believe caused Johnson to crumple to the court at Florida State on Dec. 12.

The consultation team included physicians from the Cardiac and Vascular Institute of Gainesville, University of Washington Center for Sports Cardiology, Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard University, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Yale University School of Medicine.

“We continue to be committed to sharing any information that could be helpful to others,” the family said. “Our hope is that the experts’ conclusion that this instance is not Covid-related will bring some peace of mind.”

The Johnson family added that their son “will spend the rest of the season focused on being the best coach and teammate he can be. What comes next for Keyontae is for him to share on his own timeline.”

Johnson slammed face-first to the floor seconds after coming out of a timeout. Teammates, coaches, opponents and fans watched in shock as the Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year became a trauma patient.

He spent two nights in a hospital before being airlifted back to Gainesville with his mother by his side. His recovery was a slow process. He was able to follow simple commands. He started breathing on his own. He chatted with friends and teammates via FaceTime.

He made his first public comment on Dec. 18, thanking everyone for their prayers and support. He was released four days later, 10 days after his collapse and in time to spend Christmas with his family and then be on hand for Florida’s first practice following a two-week hiatus.

Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 late last summer. The coronavirus can lead to myocarditis, a viral infection of the heart muscle. At its most severe, myocarditis can lead to sudden cardiac arrest and has been a documented cause of death for young, otherwise healthy athletes.

The SEC mandates protocols, including rigorous heart testing, before players can be cleared to return to play following positive COVID-19 tests.

Florida also administers heart screenings to all incoming athletes and re-checks athletes’ hearts heading into their third and fifth years. Johnson was entering his third season, so he would have had a heart ultrasound (echocardiogram) and heart tracing (EKG) before he arrived on campus this summer and again after testing positive for COVID-19.

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