Sports Cardiology | Heart and Vascular Center | Dartmouth-Hitchcock
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Sports Cardiology

The Sports Cardiology Clinic in the Heart & Vascular Center offers comprehensive cardiovascular care and testing for athletes and highly active individuals.

Our services are appropriate if you are a healthy individual, or if you have established or suspected cardiovascular disease. We work seamlessly with your referring physician, sports medicine physician, coaches, and trainers to prevent, evaluate, and treat heart disease.

Our clinic provides pre-participation screening and expert cardiology care for individuals of all athletic abilities and aspirations, whether you are a recreational athlete or an elite competitor. We also see athletes or active individuals seeking second opinions. We work with you and your primary doctor to develop a coordinated diagnostic and treatment strategy.

Evaluation for sports eligibility or return to play

Many high school and collegiate sports programs require cardiac screening and consultation prior to participation. These evaluations are designed to identify those athletes with pre-existing heart conditions and prevent them from experiencing cardiac events or sudden death before, during or after exercise.

Download our Sudden Death in Athletes brochure

Our clinic performs athletic pre-participation screening for individuals at all levels of participation. Screening begins with a detailed medical history and physical exam. Advanced diagnostic techniques, such as echocardiography, cardiopulmonary and exercise stress, cardiac MRI or CT, and genetic testing are incorporated as necessary. 

Available screening for major abnormalities

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy
  • Coronary anomalies
  • Inherited arrhythmias
  • Heart valve diseases

Frequently asked questions

When should I see a sports cardiologist?

  • Pre-participation screening for a sport, especially for high school, college or master athletes.
  • Clearance to resume sports participation after a cardiac event or cardiovascular surgery
  • Desire for comprehensive cardiovascular screening
  • Evaluation of symptoms such as chest pain, palpitations or shortness of breath during training or competition.
  • Evaluation of sudden or unexplained deterioration in athletic performance
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Evaluation of impaired athletic performance after medical treatment
  • Genetic and / or familial risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Advice about controlling cardiovascular disease
  • Counseling and advice on cardiovascular health and cardiac risk reduction
  • Gain a deeper level of understanding about your heart

What are the current screening recommendations for young athletes?

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend a 14-item screening checklist. The checklist includes questions about personal and family history, as well as a physical examination, designed to uncover aspects of your health that might signal a cardiovascular problem.

Screening will usually begin with questions about your family health history, as well as any symptoms you experience during exercise.

The required physical exam includes a measurement of blood pressure and a careful examination of your heart. If there are no warning signs reported on the health history, and no abnormalities discovered during the exam, no further evaluation or testing may be recommended.

Are there other options available to screen for cardiac conditions?

Technology-based screening programs include a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiogram (ECHO). These are noninvasive and painless options that parents may consider in addition to the required pre-participation physical examination (PPE). These procedures may be expensive, however, and are not currently advised by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology unless the PPE reveals an indication that these tests are necessary. Research is ongoing to determine if other technology-based assessments can help identify athletes at risk and reduce the rate of sudden cardiac death.

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