Cardiovascular Care in Athletics

Keeping your heart healthy so you can stay in the game

The IU Health Center for Cardiovascular Care in Athletics provides complete sports cardiology care for high school, college, professional, amateur, masters, recreational and occupational athletes.

We are one of only a few such programs in the country. Our specialists help you enhance your athletic performance or physical fitness, prevent acute or chronic disease, and extend your athletic career.

Individualized heart and vascular assessments and treatment plans are designed to reduce and/or treat any possible cardiovascular disorders that could compromise your performance and safety. The goal is to keep you healthy and active in your sport.

Who Benefits from Sports Cardiology?

As an athlete, you should consider sports cardiology services if:

You want a more robust pre-participation screening

A pre-participation history and physical is almost always required to participate in high school or college organized sports. This pre-participation screening goes beyond that of your primary care physician, offering you a comprehensive, in-depth cardiovascular screening before you participate in sports.

You may be at risk for an adverse cardiovascular event

If you have undergone a pre-participation screening by a primary care doctor, pediatrician, or other healthcare professional, and some concern has raised a “red flag,” you may need additional cardiovascular screening. Concerns may include something in your family history, a heart or vascular symptom, or a result from an electrocardiogram. This screening can help determine if there is anything of real concern that would put you at risk for an adverse cardiovascular event when active or playing sports.

You experience concerning symptoms during athletic activities

If you have passed a previous pre-participation screening, have been participating in a sport and are now experiencing chest discomfort, excessive shortness of breath, fainting or heart palpitations, you may need additional testing. Testing can help determine if the symptoms are related to your cardiovascular system and, if so, how you can safely return to your activity.

You are middle-aged and concerned about exercise and heart health

If you are middle-aged and still exercise a lot, you may be concerned about your risk for cardiac disease. A comprehensive assessment goes beyond the standard cardiology assessment for the average 50-year-old person and addresses the risks that pertain to you as a middle-aged athlete. In addition, the Center serves as a resource for discussions on safety and risk.

You have heart disease or a prior cardiac event

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or experienced a prior cardiac event, you may still be able to safely participate in your sport. Your comprehensive safety evaluation includes data you can use to better understand and improve your athletic performance when it is safe for you to return to your previous level of activity.

How We Can Help

In the Sports Cardiology Performance Lab, cardiopulmonary exercise testing is part of the safety evaluation and clinical evaluation for all athletes. You will be closely monitored while undergoing activities that mimic athletic competition or training, such as running, biking and sprinting. Your customized treatment plan will be based on your specific activity or sport and your heart health.

Services and treatments include:

  • Assessment of any unexplained deterioration in performance
  • Cardiovascular and physiological testing, including history and physical exam, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and cardiopulmonary exercise testing
  • Clearance to return to sports participation after a cardiovascular event or surgery
  • Comprehensive cardiovascular screening
  • Evaluation of cardiovascular risk factors, along with advice for risk-factor mitigation
  • Evaluation of potential cardiovascular symptoms

What to Expect

We are one of only a few such programs in the country. Our specialists help you enhance your athletic performance or physical fitness, prevent acute or chronic disease, and extend your athletic career.

Individualized heart and vascular assessments and treatment plans are designed to reduce and/or treat any possible cardiovascular disorders that could compromise your performance and safety. The goal is to keep you healthy and active in your sport.

Who Benefits from Sports Cardiology?

As an athlete, you should consider sports cardiology services if:

You want a more robust pre-participation screening

A pre-participation history and physical is almost always required to participate in high school or college organized sports. This pre-participation screening goes beyond that of your primary care physician, offering you a comprehensive, in-depth cardiovascular screening before you participate in sports.

You may be at risk for an adverse cardiovascular event

If you have undergone a pre-participation screening by a primary care doctor, pediatrician, or other healthcare professional, and some concern has raised a “red flag,” you may need additional cardiovascular screening. Concerns may include something in your family history, a heart or vascular symptom, or a result from an electrocardiogram. This screening can help determine if there is anything of real concern that would put you at risk for an adverse cardiovascular event when active or playing sports.

You experience concerning symptoms during athletic activities

If you have passed a previous pre-participation screening, have been participating in a sport and are now experiencing chest discomfort, excessive shortness of breath, fainting or heart palpitations, you may need additional testing. Testing can help determine if the symptoms are related to your cardiovascular system and, if so, how you can safely return to your activity.

You are middle-aged and concerned about exercise and heart health

If you are middle-aged and still exercise a lot, you may be concerned about your risk for cardiac disease. A comprehensive assessment goes beyond the standard cardiology assessment for the average 50-year-old person and addresses the risks that pertain to you as a middle-aged athlete. In addition, the Center serves as a resource for discussions on safety and risk.

You have heart disease or a prior cardiac event

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or experienced a prior cardiac event, you may still be able to safely participate in your sport. Your comprehensive safety evaluation includes data you can use to better understand and improve your athletic performance when it is safe for you to return to your previous level of activity.

How We Can Help

In the Sports Cardiology Performance Lab, cardiopulmonary exercise testing is part of the safety evaluation and clinical evaluation for all athletes. You will be closely monitored while undergoing activities that mimic athletic competition or training, such as running, biking and sprinting. Your customized treatment plan will be based on your specific activity or sport and your heart health.

Services and treatments include:

  • Assessment of any unexplained deterioration in performance
  • Cardiovascular and physiological testing, including history and physical exam, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram and cardiopulmonary exercise testing
  • Clearance to return to sports participation after a cardiovascular event or surgery
  • Comprehensive cardiovascular screening
  • Evaluation of cardiovascular risk factors, along with advice for risk-factor mitigation
  • Evaluation of potential cardiovascular symptoms

No special preparations are needed for most types of echocardiogram or electrocardiogram.

If you will be having cardiopulmonary exercise testing, plan to wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you would normally wear to exercise.

You may also need to avoid drinking caffeine or taking certain prescription medicines before your test. Your doctor will give you details before the day of your test. If you have asthma, be sure to bring your inhaler to the test.

Preparing For Cardiovascular Screening

No special preparations are needed for most types of echocardiogram or electrocardiogram.

If you will be having cardiopulmonary exercise testing, plan to wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you would normally wear to exercise.

You may also need to avoid drinking caffeine or taking certain prescription medicines before your test. Your doctor will give you details before the day of your test. If you have asthma, be sure to bring your inhaler to the test.

After your screening, your doctor will let you know if it’s okay to return to your normal activities and sports. If your testing involved radioactive dye, be sure to drink plenty of fluids afterward to flush it out of your system.

After Your Cardiovascular Screening

After your screening, your doctor will let you know if it’s okay to return to your normal activities and sports. If your testing involved radioactive dye, be sure to drink plenty of fluids afterward to flush it out of your system.

If you are an athlete and plan to have cardiovascular screening specific to athletes, you may have the following questions:

  • Can I go back to normal activities after my cardiovascular screening?
  • What did my test results show? Is my heart healthy enough for sports?
  • As an athlete, what other screening tests should I have?
  • How often should I return for cardiovascular screening?

Questions to Ask

If you are an athlete and plan to have cardiovascular screening specific to athletes, you may have the following questions:

  • Can I go back to normal activities after my cardiovascular screening?
  • What did my test results show? Is my heart healthy enough for sports?
  • As an athlete, what other screening tests should I have?
  • How often should I return for cardiovascular screening?

For more information about Cardiovascular Care in Athletics at IU Health, call 317.963.5953 or email sportscardiology@iuhealth.org.

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Patient Stories for Cardiovascular Care in Athletics