Why athletes matter

A couple of you have raised questions like this, so I want to explain why I am pushing these stories about the heart - or undisclosed - problems that top professional athletes are suffering.

The writer is correct. These are stories. Even if the players are confirmed to be vaccinated, each case is an N of 1.

Why should we care?

All kinds of reasons.

Maybe most importantly, stories matter.

We know - not think, know - that Covid vaccines can cause serious heart complications in many young men. The potential for heart inflammation significant enough to lead to hospitalization is probably somewhere between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 6,000 men under 30. Israeli doctors offered this estimate six months ago, and it has held up nicely.

If anything, these estimates may underestimate the risk, because not all cases of side effects are sent to VAERS, the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, or similar European databases. We don’t know what percentage are reported, and frankly cannot even make a good guess - maybe as many as 50 percent for unusual and serious problems that are receiving a lot of attention (such as lethal clotting disorders in young women), as few as 10 percent for more routine side effects.

So a significant number of healthy young men are suffering serious side effects after being vaccinated - far more than are at serious risk from Covid.

Remember, three weeks ago, the New York Times - not Fox News, the New York Times - wrote that “for children without a serious medical condition, the danger of severe Covid is so low as to be difficult to quantify.” (Severe basically translates into “requiring hospitalization” - and the risk for adults under 30 is little different than for children and teens.)

But many people still have no idea just how tiny Covid’s risks are to young adults or children.

Why?

Because the people pushing extreme measures against Covid have pushed the news media to write about the tiny number of children and young adults who become very sick or die, usually without acknowledging their underlying health conditions. Sometimes these efforts have backfired badly, as last month, when the top public health official for the Canadian province of Alberta was forced to admit that a 14-year-old she had claimed died of Covid actually died of brain cancer.

Yet these efforts continue.

Why?

Because the people pressing them know that stories and symbols can defeat data. They have counted on this fact, and the aid of the media, since the very beginning of the epidemic. Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies wrote on March 22, 2020:

A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened; it could be that they are reassured by the low death rate in their demographic group… The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. [emphasis in original]

The effort to keep people frightened is almost certainly why public health authorities have pushed so hard for masks, despite their obvious and repeatedly proven uselessness (I know I am going to have address the ridiculous Bangladeshi paper one day, and I will). Masks spell emergency.

It’s also probably why they they tried to keep people inside for most of 2020, long after researchers proved Covid was almost never was transmitted outside.

So stories matter. And I now receive multiple stories a week about young people who have had heart crises following Covid vaccination. But people don’t always want to go on the record, and getting information about potential underlying and confounding health factors can be difficult.

Besides, the vaccine fanatics can always point to the fact that about 190 million Americans have now been fully vaccinated. Yes, some people are getting sick or dying after being vaccinated, but with a such a large number, cases are to be expected.

Those concerns don’t apply to professional athletes. The sample size is extremely small. The National Basketball Association has fewer than 500 players, and the National Football League about 1,700; all the top European soccer leagues combined have a similar number. That’s perhaps 4,000 men in all. Even including major college football and second-tier European soccer leagues, the pool is under 20,000.

These players are extraordinary athletes who at the top level are paid millions and not infrequently tens of millions of dollars a year to stay fit and healthy. Yes, even the offensive linemen. If a notable number of them are having cardiac issues post-vaccination, that’s a very bad sign for the rest of us.

But we have other crucial reasons to play attention to this issue.

The media is essentially refusing to cover these cases or even ask questions when teams and coaches do not disclose relevant information. The obfuscation is part of a much larger pattern around Covid.

What has happened? Teams have traditionally disclosed substantive information about player injuries. Fans pay high prices to attend games, and huge amounts of money are bet on them; the presumption has been that people have the right to know if and why players aren’t going to be available, within certain narrow limits.

Worse, in several recent cases, athletes have not merely been held out of games but collapsed on the field of play, in full view of fans, many of whom are children. Those moments are frightening, anyone watching them is entitled to a clear explanation of what has happened, and, if possible, the underlying reasons why. This statement wouldn’t even have been controversial in the pre-Covid/pre-Covid-vaccine days.

When Hank Gathers, a college basketball player, collapsed on the court in 1990 and died two hours later, his death was exhaustively covered. (Gathers turned out to have cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.) In fact, Gathers’ death was still being written about more than thirty years later.

Yet as with so much else, Covid has thrown long-established journalistic norms out the window.

Even to demand more information about individual cases - much less to suggest a pattern - is to raise questions about the vaccines.

And if you are a reporter for a elite media organization, you’d best think twice before you raise questions about the vaccines. To do so to commit journalistic harakiri. If you’re a really bad boy, you may even be shut out of social media - and lose a huge portion of your audience in one fell swoop.

Newsflash, folks:

ALL-CAUSE MORTALITY, ESPECIALLY AMONG PEOPLE UNDER 50, HAS JUMPED THIS YEAR ACROSS THE UNITED STATES AND EUROPE.

No one knows why. No one is even trying to explain why. NO ONE IS EVEN DISCUSSING THIS. And now some of the healthiest young men in the world are collapsing before our eyes.

If those cases don’t get our attention, I don’t know what will.

So, yeah, each of these is an N of 1.

But not all Ns are created equal.