Heart Conditions and Sports Medicine
For athletes and highly active people, heart health is key to your performance and overall health. At Memorial Healthcare System, our Sports Medicine Center offers specialized care from a board-certified cardiologist with advanced training in sports medicine.
You’ll receive care from a specialist who is a former Division I college athlete himself. He has years of experience treating inherited heart diseases and other cardiac conditions that typically affect athletes. Our sports cardiologist leads a team of skilled heart experts who offer comprehensive care in the only dedicated sports cardiology program in South Florida.
Sports Cardiology at Memorial: Conditions We Treat
At the Memorial Sports Medicine Center, our sports cardiologist has done extensive training and research in how cardiac conditions affect athletes differently. Whether you’re playing at the recreational or professional levels, it’s important to see a specialist who has a thorough understanding of the effect heart conditions have on athletes.
We work with active people at all levels of sports to diagnose, treat and manage existing heart conditions as well as prevent cardiac events or other complications. Some of the heart conditions we treat include:
When the electrical impulses that regulate the heartbeat don’t work properly, arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, can develop. The heart may beat too slowly, too fast or irregularly.
A common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, and some types can be life-threatening. Learn more about arrhythmia, and read about our patient, Mike Lifshotz, and his experience with our sports cardiology team.
Exercise-induced cardiac remodeling, also known as athlete’s heart, describes changes that often occur in people who do strenuous physical activity for more than one hour per day. These changes are thought to allow the heart to adapt to the physical activity being performed by the athlete.
People with athlete’s heart may have a slower heartbeat, larger heart and thicker walls in the lower left heart chamber (ventricle). Because these changes can also be signs of certain heart conditions, your doctor may recommend testing to rule out other conditions.
Cardiomyopathy describes diseases that cause the heart muscle to enlarge or thicken and become stiff. Cardiomyopathy can prevent the heart from pumping enough blood, which can prevent oxygen from reaching all parts of the body, especially during exercise. Read about the various types of cardiomyopathy.
Coronary artery disease (CAD)
Also known as coronary heart disease, CAD develops when coronary arteries (blood vessels supplying the heart) become narrowed. CAD typically results from atherosclerosis, a condition in which cholesterol and other blood fats build up inside artery walls (plaque), and can lead to a heart attack. Learn more about coronary artery disease.
Rare genetic disorders disrupt the heart’s regular electrical patterns and increase the risk of life-threatening arrhythmias, especially during exercise.
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot that forms when a piece of plaque breaks off. Without prompt treatment, the area of heart muscle affected by the blockage begins to die, causing tissue damage or death. Read more about heart attack.
Heart valve diseases
This group of diseases results from a defect in or damage to one or more of the heart’s four valves. Heart valves are flaps of tissue between the heart’s chambers that control blood flow from one chamber to the next. Heart valves can leak, become narrowed or not close tightly. Find out about heart valve diseases.
Sudden cardiac arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, which stops blood flow to the body. The condition differs from a heart attack because it results from a disruption in the heart’s electrical system, not a blockage. Sudden cardiac arrest is an emergency that requires immediate medical attention to save the person’s life.
A rare cause of sudden cardiac arrest, commotio cordis can occur when a person receives a blunt blow to the chest, such as being hit by a ball or another player during sports. If the blow strikes at exactly the wrong time in the heart's electrical cycle, it can cause a life-threatening arrhythmia called ventricular fibrillation.
Heart Disease Symptoms
Some heart conditions have few or no symptoms, or the symptoms may resemble those of other, less serious conditions. That means you may have a heart condition and not realize it.
At Memorial, our sports cardiologist conducts a thorough evaluation for people who have symptoms that may indicate a heart condition. Contact us for an appointment if you experience any of these symptoms, especially during exercise:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Difficulty breathing
- Fainting (syncope)
- Heart murmurs
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat, either too fast or too slow
Diagnosing Sports Heart Conditions
Our sports cardiology team begins with a comprehensive evaluation to confirm a diagnosis or rule out other conditions. At the Memorial Sports Medicine Center, we offer the latest diagnostic methods, including metabolic stress testing and specialized cardiac imaging scans.
Once we confirm a diagnosis, our sports medicine team works with you to develop a customized treatment plan. Our goal is to get you back to your activity level using the least invasive treatment possible.
Learn more about our diagnostic process and sports cardiology treatment options.
To schedule an appointment or learn more about sports medicine at Memorial, call 954-265-8326.