UTSW SHAPING INTO REGIONAL CENTER FOR SPORTS CARDIOLOGY
At its most basic level, cardiology focuses on timing — monitoring the pulses and rhythms that are attuned to a natural clock. My team is also keeping a pulse on the growing health care field of sports cardiology.
In less than a year, the UT Southwestern sports cardiology program has gone from a 20-year-old program that was elite, but under the radar to a developing regional center of excellence for athletes across the competitive spectrum who have or are at risk for heart conditions.
Three seemingly unrelated events are at the heart of this perfectly timed growth spurt.
First, in fall 2015 we announced that UT Southwestern was teaming up with Texas Health Resources, to better serve patients throughout North Texas from preventive care to the most advanced interventions in modern medicine. This is part of an effort to improve access to specialized care and develop centers of excellence around specialties with the ultimate goal of making health care more affordable.
One of our areas of excellence is my passion: sports cardiology. This is my field of expertise and what I practice at UT Southwestern and the Dallas-based Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine, a partnership between UT Southwestern and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
“I’ve been involved in creating these guidelines since the early 1990s, along with many other experts from around the country, including world-renowned electrophysiologist Mark Link, M.D.” -Benjamin Levine
Then, in early 2016, the NCAA published updated guidelines for managing athletes with cardiovascular conditions, such as inherited diseases of the heart and blood vessels, or arrhythmias. The new guidelines emphasize the importance of specialized care and the availability of cardiologists who understand the physical demands on elite athletes’ hearts, including pre-season evaluations, screening tools, and research initiatives. I’ve been involved in creating these guidelines since the early 1990s, along with many other experts from around the country, including world-renowned electrophysiologist Mark Link, M.D.
Dr. Link is the third piece of our growth spurt. He is the world’s expert on commotio cordis, sudden death from chest wall impact in sports, and he was a writing group member on two Bethesda Conference recommendations with me:
- Eligibility Recommendations for Competitive Athletes With Cardiovascular Abnormalities (2005)
- Eligibility and Disqualification Recommendations for Competitive Athletes With Cardiovascular Abnormalities (2015)
Dr. Link will join us in fall 2016 as our Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology, and he and I will work to transform our sports cardiology program into a regional center of excellence.
“There is no program like ours in the area now, and there are only a few institutions like it in the country.” -Benjamin Levine
Currently, we see patients with diverse conditions, from inherited heart defects to myocarditis and history of heart attacks as well as athletes whose heart screenings triggered concern.
As we grow, we’ll work with high school and college students, professional athletes, and master athletes in Texas and the greater Southwest who enjoy their sports, but have potential heart conditions that require specialized care. There is no program like ours in the area now, and there are only a few institutions like it in the country.
With the combined expertise of Dr. Link and myself, our relationship with Texas Health, and the updated NCAA guidelines emphasizing centers of excellence, we expect that our program will grow quickly from a regional to a national center. Sports cardiology requires specialization, and in an area full of athletes like Dallas-Fort Worth, a center of excellence focused on sports cardiology is vital.
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