Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Sports Cardiologists Screen Aspiring MLB Athletes

06.28.2024 Atrium Health News | Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute

Cardiac screening event provides players medical and performance assessments

CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 28, 2024 Top athletes aspiring to pursue their dreams of playing Major League Baseball gathered in Phoenix last week, and experts from Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute were there to ensure their hearts are ready for a successful career. Sports cardiologists from Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute screened over 220 elite athletes for cardiac conditions during the MLB Draft Combine, held from June 20-25.

The combine is the athletes’ final opportunity to make a lasting impression before this year’s MLB first-year player draft. Players participate in a series of medical and performance assessments and educational programming designed to prepare them for a career as professional athletes. All players had the opportunity to participate in a pro-style showcase that included strength and performance assessments. Additionally, high school players had the option to participate in games against other high school attendees. 

Cardiologists from Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute tested and evaluated both the electrics and the size and function of the athletes’ hearts, as part of their detailed screening. Athletic trainers from Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute Orthopedics & Sports Medicine aided in these health evaluations.

"Rigorous screenings ensure athletes can safely engage in their sports while they advance toward professional levels," said Dr. Dermot Phelan, director of the Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Sports Cardiology Center. “Our extensive experience of cardiac evaluations in elite athletes has enabled us to provide nuanced health strategies. These strategies empower athletes to excel in their rigorous training routines and competitive performances in a safe manner.

"Our research findings are redefining the boundaries of sports participation for athletes with cardiac conditions," added Phelan, who led a 2023 study of Division I and other elite athletes with genetic heart conditions. "With proper management, athletes diagnosed with certain cardiac conditions can continue to train and compete. It underscores the importance of tailored exercise prescriptions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. It's about optimizing health while maintaining peak performance – a symbiotic triumph for sports medicine and athletic aspirations."

As director of the Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Sports Cardiology Center, Phelan runs a busy clinic for the cardiovascular care of local athletes in the Charlotte region. However, many elite athletes travel from all corners of the country to also be evaluated at the center.

In addition to serving as a cardiology consultant for the MLB Draft Combine, Phelan is the cardiologist for the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Football Club. He chairs the NFL cardiovascular task force and advises the NBA cardiovascular committee and serves as the cardiology consultant for the NFL, and he is a member of the Cardiac Screening Advisory Committee for both the NFL and the NBA.

Phelan's expertise was crucial in the diagnosis and treatment guidelines for NHL Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist, recently highlighted in the Netflix film “Open Heart.”

Learn more about Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Sports Cardiology Center at