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Playing sports and participating in regular exercise is extremely beneficial for your heart and overall health. The stress exercise places on your heart helps it to adapt and get stronger. But underlying problems such as a congenital heart defect or heart disease can impact your health and make it harder for the heart to perform well during intense activities. At Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute’s Sports Cardiology Center, we specialize in treating athletes of all levels who are at risk for, have been diagnosed with, or are recovering from cardiovascular disease.

Our sports cardiology expertise is unmatched in the greater Charlotte area. We have years of experience evaluating athletes’ hearts, identifying potential problems and selecting treatments that keep you healthy. Sanger is also the region’s top-rated heart program according to U.S. News & World Report, so you can feel confident when you come to us for care. Together we can help you maximize your sports performance, safely. Learn more about our Sports Cardiology Center’s outcomes.

To schedule an appointment with one of our skilled sports cardiologists, call 704-373-0212.

Hear from Dr. Phelan and get an inside look at Sanger’s Sports Cardiology Center

“Sports cardiology is a relatively new section of cardiology designed to evaluate and treat athletes or people who are highly active and who have concerns for their cardiac health,” explains Dermot Phelan, MD, PhD, director of Sanger’s Sports Cardiology Center.

“Athletes who come to a sports cardiology center come with a range of diagnoses. The treatment really depends on what the underlying disease is. Unlike other subspecialties in cardiology, where the subspecialty is focused on a particular disease process, sports cardiology deals with a unique cardiovascular population of people who are very highly active or who are competitive athletes.

“The ultimate purpose of the Sports Cardiology Center is to help athletes get back to doing the things they love but in a safe fashion.”

Why choose Sanger’s Sports Cardiology Center?

  • The only center in Charlotte dedicated to athletes
    Our Sports Cardiology Center is the only one of its kind in the greater Charlotte area, bringing together experts in a variety of specialties from Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute – including cardiology, pulmonology, genetics and exercise physiology. This unique collaboration of specialists delivers expert insight into every aspect of your heart and performance, all under one roof.
  • Experience with elite athletes
    As the most experienced sports cardiology team in the region, elite athletes trust us to provide them with the best care. That’s why Atrium Health is the official healthcare provider for the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Football Club, and many local colleges and high schools. And why we currently serve on the cardiology advisory committees for the NBA and NFL.
  • State-of-the-art screening and diagnostics, tailored to your sport
    Our team uses the latest technology to evaluate each patient’s heart. This includes advanced echocardiography, cardiac MRI and cardiac CT that enable us to see the heart in great detail and pinpoint any problems. We also use specialized tools to monitor and evaluate your heart during exercise, like cardiopulmonary exercise testing. We tailor each patient’s testing to their particular sport – a cyclist, for instance, often needs different tests than a runner.
  • Treatment that keeps you training and competing
    Many patients come to us after being told they need to stop exercising or participating in sports or activities. We know this doesn’t work for people who have a lifelong passion for athletics or a career that revolves around intense activity. If you have a heart issue, we’re familiar with the latest therapies and can develop a treatment plan that enables you to stay active.


Team approach

We provide a multidisciplinary team approach, bringing together specialized experts who address every facet of your heart health and provide a personalized care plan. Our team includes:

  • Cardiovascular imaging specialists
  • Exercise physiologists
  • Geneticists
  • Pulmonologists
  • Sports cardiologists
  • Sports cardiology nurses
  • Sports medicine physicians
  • Sports nutritionists


Your first appointment

Whether you’re a professional athlete or a highly active individual who wishes to prevent, detect or manage a heart condition, we can help you perform at your best level and safely return to your sporting activity. Here’s what you can expect before, during and after your first appointment:

  • Before your appointment
    A member of our team will reach out and work with you to get your medical records and images that are needed for your appointment. This includes things like your medical history, test results and images (such as an echocardiogram, chest X-ray, MRI or CT scan). You’ll also be asked to fill out a brief questionnaire related to your sporting activity and cardiac history.
  • During your appointment
    You’ll meet with one of our sports cardiologists who will review your medical records and history, do a physical exam, discuss your test results, and provide a comprehensive cardiovascular assessment, which may include things like advanced imaging and stress testing. We’ll then take all of that into account to develop your individualized treatment plan.
  • After your appointment
    If additional testing is needed, you’ll be scheduled for a follow-up appointment. You also may be scheduled for appointments with other specialists, like geneticists, sports nutritionists or pulmonologists. Your nurse will reach out to you with specific instructions.
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Conditions treated

Long-term sports and exercise can change the heart’s structure and electrical patterns. We have years of experience evaluating and treating athletes’ hearts. This gives us the expertise to know when an athlete’s heart that seems abnormal is actually healthy and when a heart needs treatment. You should see a sports cardiologist if you have experienced or have need of:

  • New symptoms that occur during competition or training, such as dizziness, syncope (fainting episodes), chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, or abrupt heart palpitations (sensation of a racing or fluttering heart)
  • Unexplained decline in sports performance
  • Abnormal findings on an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), exercise stress test or detection of a heart murmur
  • Heart disease or have concerns about heart disease
  • Uncertainties about returning to a sport following a medical treatment or surgical procedure and regaining top performance
  • Clearance on return to play
  • Counseling regarding risks and benefits of various training strategies and sports competition
  • Evaluating risk factors for a family history of sudden cardiac arrest in athletes, heart disease or congestive heart failure

Services and treatments

At Sanger’s Sports Cardiology Center, we specialize in managing heart health in athletes of all levels to help them excel in their sport while protecting their health. We offer:

  • Comprehensive cardiovascular assessments that are individualized and sports specific, including:
    • Cardiopulmonary exercise stress test
    • Electrocardiography
    • Lab tests
  • Innovative imaging techniques that lead to accurate diagnoses and treatments, including:
    • Advanced echocardiography, including 3D echo and strain
    • Cardiac CT
    • Cardiac MRI
  • Treatment plans tailored to your sport or athletic activity
  • Patient-focused counseling on prevention, training strategies, nutrition and lifestyle habits
  • Counseling about the risks and benefits of competitive play and various training strategies
  • Advice on regaining athletic performance after a medical or surgical treatment
  • Clearance on return to play after an event or treatment

Sports partnerships

Top athletes trust us to keep them in the game with our high-caliber care.

Atrium Health is the official healthcare provider for: Charlotte FC, Carolina Panthers, Davidson College, Winthrop University, UNCC Charlotte, Charlotte Motor Speedway.

We are also the cardiology consultants for the: NFL Scouting Combine, and MLB Draft Combine.

  • Charlotte Motor Speedway.
  • Winthrop University.
  • Carolina Panthers.
  • Charlotte Football Club.
  • Davidson College.
  • University of North Carolina Charlotte.

Our Providers

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The Sports Cardiology Center is part of Sanger’s state-of-the-art flagship facility, located in Charlotte’s Midtown neighborhood.

Atrium Health Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Sports Cardiology Center

Medical Plaza Building 1
1237 Harding Place
Charlotte, NC 28204 

Facility hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday

Phone: 704-373-0212

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Frequently asked questions

What do sports cardiologists do?

When you play sports or exercise on a long-term basis, your heart can change: The heart's structure and electrical patterns can shift. As sports cardiologists, we can differentiate between normal shifts in patterns and irregular heartbeats or even heart disease, and with that, can offer individualized guidance for athletic training and heart care.

Why is it important for sports performers to have a healthy heart?   

Performance and endurance are related to the health of your heart. If you’re a long-term athlete, your heart becomes more efficient and doesn’t need to work as hard to pump blood to your muscles. This can make it easier to push the limits during physical activity.

What is athlete’s heart?

If you practice intense exercise for 5 hours or more per week, your heart may become larger and more efficient than average. This is known as exercise-induced cardiac remolding or athlete’s heart.

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram is a procedure that uses sound waves that move through the skin and other body tissue to “bounce” off the heart (like an echo). The sound waves are sent through a computer to create a moving visual image of the heart valves and walls.

We may order an echocardiogram to further investigate symptoms that may suggest a heart condition like heart valve disease or cardiomyopathy. 

Can you play sports with a heart condition?

Athletes can play sports with most heart conditions but often need advice and guidance on the safest way to do so.