Josh Archibald rejoins Oilers for practice after bout with myocarditis

Edmonton Oilers forward Josh Archibald discusses his return to practice following an absence due to myocarditis, and his decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Edmonton Oilers forward Josh Archibald took part in a full practice Sunday, his first time skating with the team since being diagnosed with the heart condition myocarditis back in October.

Archibald, who is unvaccinated, arrived in Edmonton at the end of February and had to quarantine before rejoining the team.

There is no timeline for his return to the ice but when he does resume playing games, he will be limited by the travel restrictions Canada currently has in place for unvaccinated people crossing the border.

Editor's Note: The COVID-19 situation, in sports and around the world, is constantly evolving. Readers in Canada can consult the country's public health website for the latest.

"I think there's obviously both sides to the spectrum, and it can go either way," Archibald said Sunday during his first media availability since his diagnosis. "I don't disrespect anybody's decision (to get vaccinated), obviously it's a personal decision for everybody and that was just a personal decision that my family and I thought was best for all of us."

According to Health Canada, research shows that approved vaccines protect individuals against COVID-19 and that vaccinated individuals who contract COVID-19 can experience less severe illness as a result.

Myocarditis enlarges and weakens the heart, can create scar tissue, and forces the heart to work harder to circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body. This type of inflammation can have wide-ranging effects -- including fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and chest pain -- though the vast majority of myocarditis cases overall are both mild and temporary. Severe cases of myocarditis, though, can be permanently damaging and lead to heart failure, heart attacks, arrhythmias or even sudden cardiac death. In athletes, myocarditis has been implicated in a significant portion of sudden cardiac death cases, up to 22 per cent, though a fatal outcome is still exceedingly unlikely overall.

Canadian soccer star Alphonso Davies has been sidelined since January with myocarditis, which he contracted shortly after testing positive for COVID-19. When Archibald was diagnosed with myocarditis in October, it was revealed that he had contracted COVID-19 over the summer.

Archibald said he is healthy and doesn't expect to have any long-term effects from myocarditis. And despite the risks, he added that he wouldn't do anything different.

"I think our medical team, everyone did what we thought was best under the circumstances," he said. "For myself, I honestly wouldn't change a thing.

"Obviously it was a real turn of events when I went home and wasn't able to be here with everybody. But at the same time, it was my decision and I'm going to live with it, I'm going to respect it and I hope everybody else can respect it, too."

With files from Thomas Ketko.

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