Exercise is great for your heart but at times it can bring on unexpected symptoms. When you exercise, especially if you exercise with your heart rate high for an extended period of time, your heart and vascular systems change in response to those demands. Athletic or sports cardiology is a special division of cardiology that is ever evolving to care for athletes or people who are active, and who have known or perhaps unknown cardiovascular conditions. Athletic or sports cardiology includes many aspects of cardiology, such as:
- Cardiac imaging
- Electrophysiology (evaluation of heart rhythms)
- Structural heart disease
- Exercise physiology (the way the body reacts to exercise in the short term and long term basis)
Bryan Heart cardiologists understand the common changes to the athletic heart as well as necessary screenings to help keep athletes safe. Individuals who experience cardiovascular symptoms while exercising or competing in sports may need to be screened for:
Common cardiovascular conditions
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the buildup of plaque inside the heart’s arteries
- Hypertension or high blood pressure is the most common cardiovascular condition found in athletes
Other factors that can impact the heart while exercising
- Preexisting cardiovascular disease, including inherited conditions such as:
- Diseases of the heart muscle: cardiomyopathy and myocarditis
- Congenital heart disease
- Diseases of the heart valves: aortic stenosis, aortic regurgitation (AR), mitral regurgitation (MR) and mitral stenosis
- Arrhythmias or heart rhythms: tachycardia (heart beating too fast), bradycardia (heart beating too slow)
An athlete’s age group and level of competition also present unique challenges
- High school athletes experience rapid growth and exertional demands.
- Collegiate athletes are faced with more rigorous training and conditioning requirements compared to high school.
- Professional athletes or those in highly active occupations (police officer, fire fighter or active military) have daily demands upon their cardiovascular system and may be in a situation where stopping to recover is not an option.
- “Weekend Warrior” or individuals with inconsistent conditioning are at risk for cardiovascular demands they are not conditioned for.
- Highly active recreational athletes require customized care plans as they continue to push their bodies at a higher rate than others.
Regardless of your age range, heart condition or level of competitive life style, Bryan Heart is here to help you remain as heart healthy and safe as possible while remaining active.
Recent Impact to Athletic or Sports Cardiology
COVID-19 and the possible health implications from those who have become infected made an impact on sports cardiology. With COVID-19’s potential to have long-term negative effects on athletes’ hearts, Bryan Heart and Bryan Medical Center are working with the University of Nebraska Husker teams, the Big Ten, and private colleges and universities across the state to provide sports consultations for cardiac clearance, so athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19 can safely return to play.
No matter the sport or size of school, the athlete’s health is the top priority. Bryan Heart and Bryan Medical Center, in conjunction with team physicians, athletic trainers and/or athletes’ primary care physicians, have the tools and expertise necessary to meet return-to-play criteria and guidelines set forth by various conferences and associations.
Besides the Huskers, sports consultations have been provided and are available to high school, college and professional athletes from all over the country.
What’s involved? Commonly used tools at Bryan Heart include:
- High Sensitivity Troponin T – This lab test evaluates levels of cardiac enzymes that indicate potential heart damage.
- 12-Lead EKG – Testing, using electrocardiography, evaluates electrical signals in the heart to help detect irregularities.
- Limited Echocardiogram with Strain – This is a comprehensive evaluation of the heart’s function and structure, including its chambers and valves. Strain imaging evaluates the function of the heart muscle (myocardium), using cardiac ultrasound and identifies subtle changes.
- Office Evaluation
- Cardiac MRI (if deemed necessary) – This noninvasive imaging test uses radio waves and powerful magnets to create a detailed image of the heart. This is available at Bryan Medical Center.