Sports Cardiology Program
Sometimes, an athlete—seemingly in peak physical condition—experiences sudden cardiac arrest on the playing field due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Yale Medicine’s Sports Cardiology Program is dedicated to preventing such tragedies through comprehensive screening, evaluation, and management of cardiovascular disease in athletes.
The Sports Cardiology Program brings a multidisciplinary approach to the identification and treatment of potentially life-threatening cardiac abnormalities in athletes.
The program provides two distinct services:
- Pre-participation screening of college and university athletes to detect any potential abnormalities before they compete
- Consultation and care for athletes of any age who either have known cardiovascular disease or who have symptoms that could be related to cardiovascular disease
Yale Medicine specialists begin with an electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the electrical activity of the heart, to check for a variety of cardiac conditions. When screening college and university athletes, Yale experts interpret the ECG, offer recommendations for follow-up care, if needed, and work closely with the school to monitor and advise the athlete going forward. Yale physicians have been performing ECG screenings for Yale University athletes since 2015. With the launch of the Sports Cardiology Program, Yale Medicine is now performing screenings for athletes at three local universities, as well as the Connecticut Whale women’s professional hockey team.
In addition to a pre-participation screening of college athletes, the Sports Cardiology Program provides ongoing clinical care for athletes of any age (including children) who have a known cardiac condition or symptoms that may indicate cardiac abnormalities, such as passing out or palpitations. In both cases, the goal is to develop an effective diagnosis, treatment, and management strategy for the athlete and provide recommendations on whether and how the athlete can safely participate in competitive sports.
The foundation of Yale Medicine’s program is its multidisciplinary approach to these issues. A team of experts from many specialty areas works together to provide comprehensive, integrated services and holistic care for athletes.
The program’s director, Rachel Lampert, MD, is a sports cardiologist, electrophysiologist, and arrhythmia specialist who frequently writes and speaks on preventing sudden cardiac arrest in athletes. Dr. Lampert has conducted extensive research in this area, including studies on whether athletes with implanted defibrillators can safely participate in sports. The Sports Cardiology Program also features imaging teams that use highly specialized diagnostic tools such as cardiac MRIs and echocardiography. The team also includes experts in adult and pediatric arrhythmia, cardiac channelopathies, cardiomyopathy, genetic cardiovascular diseases, and more.
In addition, Dr. Lampert and her team frequently partner with Yale’s Sports Medicine Program, a section within the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation. They also have an ongoing partnership with In a Heartbeat, a foundation that works to prevent deaths from sudden cardiac arrest by raising awareness, enabling research, and donating ECGs and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to places that need them.
Lauren A. Baldassarre, MDInternal Medicine, Cardiovascular MedicineLauren Baldassarre, MD, is a cardiologist at Yale Medicine and director of the Cardio-Oncology Program at the Yale Cancer Center. Cardio-oncology is a relatively new field that helps patients manage the cardiac side effects of therapies they’re receiving for cancer treatment (such as chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy). The goal of the cardio-oncology program is to diagnose and treat those side effects as early as possible. Dr. Baldassarre first became interested in cardio-oncology during her cardiology fellowship, and she decided to pursue and complete an additional year of fellowship training at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. That fellowship focused on advanced cardiac imaging with cardiac MRI and caring for cancer patients with cardiac questions or complications. It was a way for Dr. Baldassarre to combine her interests in women’s heart disease and cardiac imaging, and introduced her to the field of cardio-oncology. In 2013, she arrived at Yale Medicine and became the director of the cardio-oncology program in 2015. As the director, Dr. Baldassarre’s goals have been to offer care to any patient who might benefit from cardiovascular risk assessment and monitoring not only at the main hospital, but also at Yale Medicine satellite sites, and to expand research and clinical trials that investigate ways to diagnose cardiac complications from cancer earlier. When meeting with new patients, Dr. Baldassarre takes a thorough history and physical and completes a cardiovascular risk assessment based on the type of cancer therapy they will be receiving. Patients can also expect to undergo some cardiac imaging as part of that risk assessment. “I really hope to be able to put patients at ease,” says Dr. Baldassarre. “I know that patients are concerned especially when they’re going through so much already.” She walks them through established monitoring and treatments protocols, which may be used to prevent complications or treat them, if they do arise. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Baldassarre researches the cardiac side effects of immunotherapy, one of the most promising therapies for cancer. She is also an associate professor (cardiology) at Yale Medicine.
Cheyenne Beach, MDPediatric Cardiology, ElectrophysiologyCheyenne M. Beach, MD, a pediatric cardiologist, says there is no greater reward than working through heart rhythm problems with her patients. “I love seeing the positive effect we can have on our patients’ lives and finding the best possible solution for each one,” she says. “And I enjoy interacting with our wide variety of patients. I have the opportunity to treat patients from infancy to adulthood.” Dr. Beach is trained to manage heart rhythm abnormalities in children and in adults with congenital heart disease. She performs electrophysiology studies and ablation procedures for patients with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and other rhythm disorders. She also implants and manages pacemakers and implantable defibrillators in patients who need them. An assistant professor of pediatrics (cardiology) at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Beach’s research interests include optimization of transcatheter ablation techniques and management of arrhythmias seen in patients with Lyme disease.
Robert Elder, MDPediatric Cardiology, Cardiovascular MedicineA specialist in congenital heart disease, Robert W. Elder, MD, treats patients from infancy through adulthood. He is board-certified in adult internal medicine, pediatrics, pediatric cardiology and adult congenital heart disease. “I treat patients of all ages, which is key for congenital heart disease, a broad disease that can range from having a malformed valve to missing half of your heart and everything in between,” Dr. Elder says. “I like having the additional training in adult medicine because it’s important to provide transition of care for kids with congenital heart disease when they grow up with a strong background in internal medicine.” Many children who are born with congenital heart disease are seen by pediatric cardiologists until they transfer to an adult specialist. “I can treat them across their lifespan,” says Dr. Elder, who is director of the Yale Medicine Adult Congenital Heart Program. Dr. Elder says his favorite part of the job is getting to know patients and their families and learning their stories. “I love making sure they and their families understand their condition,” he says. “I get to work with wonderful patients.” He pursued a medical career because it married his interest in science and “compassionate care.” He was also influenced by his late grandfather, who ran a family practice in rural Colorado. (He keeps the leather satchel his grandfather used for house calls on a shelf in his office.) Dr. Elder is an associate professor of pediatric cardiology and of cardiology at Yale School of Medicine. His research interests include studying people who are born with one single pumping chamber (as opposed to two) in their heart and have had a surgery called the Fontan procedure to better address the long-term changes in circulation.
John Fahey, MDPediatric CardiologyJohn T. Fahey, MD, is director of Yale Medicine’s Adult Congenital Heart Program. A cardiologist, he has more than 30 years of experience treating congenital heart disease in children and adults. He tells new patients, “We can usually make your heart function very close to normal.” Dr. Fahey researches exercise in patients with congenital heart disease. He also studies the abnormal physiology of congenital heart disease, and when and how to best treat it.” He derives his greatest satisfaction from caring for young patients over time and watching them grow into adults. He is most excited about new catheterization methods that enable a patient with congenital heart disease to avoid surgery. He is a professor of pediatrics (cardiology) and an associate clinical professor of nursing at Yale School of Medicine.
James V. Freeman, MD, MPH, MSElectrophysiologyJames V. Freeman MD, MPH, MS, is a cardiologist who specializes in the treating cardiac arrhythmias. He is nationally known for his expertise performing specialized arrhythmia procedures including ablation of complex arrhythmias (supraventricular tachycardias, atrial fibrillation and flutter, and ventricular tachycardia), left atrial appendage occlusion, and placing implantable cardiac devices such as pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. Dr. Freeman is director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratories for Yale New Haven Health and the director of the Yale Atrial Fibrillation Program. He has a Masters in Public Health degree with a concentration in biostatistics and epidemiology from Johns Hopkins and a Masters of Science degree in health services research from Stanford. Dr. Freeman has published extensively on topics of comparative effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and clinical outcomes with cardiac arrhythmias. He has served as the lead researcher on studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association to study the safety and effectiveness of therapies for the prevention and treatment of atrial fibrillation, ventricular fibrillation/tachycardia, sudden cardiac death, stroke and heart failure.
Rachel Lampert, MDCardiovascular Medicine, ElectrophysiologyRachel Lampert, MD, is a sports cardiologist and an electrophysiologist (arrhythmia specialist) who has led groundbreaking studies on athletes with cardiovascular conditions. From elite college athletes to people who enjoy being active, Dr. Lampert works with patients to diagnose and assess cardiovascular risk and help them play the sports they love in a safe manner. Dr. Lampert is the Robert W. Berliner Professor of Internal Medicine (Cardiology) at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Sports Cardiology Program at Yale Medicine. She specializes in treating athletes of all ages, including children, with arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) and other kinds of heart conditions that could put them at risk for sudden cardiac death. She works to develop an effective diagnosis, treatment, and management strategy for each athlete and provides recommendations on whether and how they can safely participate in competitive sports. Dr. Lampert’s pioneering research includes studies that have changed the national guidelines for athletes with implanted defibrillators. Previously, it was thought that athletes with defibrillators should not play sports; but those guidelines were based on expert opinion and not on hard data. So, Dr. Lampert decided to start collecting data. She studied more than 400 athletes with implanted defibrillators who decided to continue participating in sports despite the guidelines. She followed those athletes closely for four years, and no adverse medical events were reported during that time. As a result of her research, in 2015 the American Heart Association eligibility guidelines were changed to say that sports may be considered for athletes with defibrillators. “It was very important to me that patients diagnosed with heart disease and treated with defibrillators were still able to have the life they wanted,” Dr. Lampert said. “That’s really been my goal throughout, both in the care of athletes and non-athletes: How can we treat this person’s heart in a way that is appropriate and allows them to live the life they want?” Dr. Lampert’s other research areas include the effects of mental stress on arrhythmia and correlations of acute or chronic stress with heart rate variability. She is active in a number of professional societies, including the Heart Rhythm Society, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association.
Bernardo Lombo, MDInternal Medicine, Cardiovascular MedicineBernardo Lombo, MD, is a cardiologist and internal medicine specialist who treats patients in Connecticut and abroad. Dr. Lombo’s special interests include portable echocardiography technology, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and the development of online platforms that provide free access to educational materials for the medical community. He is part of the team that created the Yale Cardiovascular Global Health Initiative and the International Team of Educators to Advance Cardiovascular Health (ITEACH). These two groups aim to improve cardiovascular care in underserved communities. With ITEACH, Dr. Lombo and his team have spearheaded clinical collaborations and research projects in Colombia, Rwanda, Indonesia, Russia, the Dominican Republic, and Argentina. Dr. Lombo was awarded the Global Health Education Innovation Award in 2020 by Yale School of Medicine for his work. He is an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Yale School of Medicine.
Arya Mani, MDCardiovascular Medicine, Genetics, Clinical GeneticsArya Mani, MD, director of the Yale Medicine Cardiovascular Genetics Program, is a leading expert on the genetic causes of heart disease. An interest in the genetics of disease and a desire to improve outcomes for cardiac patients led him into his field. “I wanted to make a change not only by diagnosing and healing patients, but also by identifying causes and treatments of disease,” he says. Through collaborative efforts with physicians and scientists across the world, he has been involved in recruiting large populations of patients and families with early onset coronary artery disease and metabolic syndrome, and in the course of working with them has successfully mapped and identified a number of novel genes for these diseases. An associate professor of medicine (cardiology) and of genetics at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Mani studies the role of genetics in disease and the use of genomic knowledge in identifying disease pathways, the sequence of actions within a cell that lead to illness. He has helped identify genes that cause early onset coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome and several adult congenital disorders. While he enjoys research, Dr. Mani also loves working with patients and seeing them get better. “It is a joy to see that you’ve had an impact on people’s lives,” he says. “I don’t want to miss a moment of it.”
Hamid Mojibian, MDCardiovascular Medicine, Interventional Radiology, Non-Invasive Vascular Imaging, Vascular & Endovascular SurgeryHamid Mojibian, MD, is director of cardiac CT/MR Imaging for Yale Medicine’s Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging. He and a team of radiologists and cardiologists perform cardiac imaging studies to detect heart problems such as coronary artery disease. In his role, Dr. Mojibian also performs minimally invasive interventional cardiac procedures such as thrombectomy to remove pulmonary embolisms. It’s a new procedure in which he inserts a device into the veins to the pulmonary artery that can remove blood clots blocking normal airflow to the lungs that cause the right side of the heart to fail. “Patients come to us in a very dire situation and leave almost normal,” he says. The nonsurgical procedure can be done in an hour or two and is done through a small hole in the groin, leaving no scar. “It feels amazing that we can provide immediate, life-changing care for patients.” Dr. Mojibian also performs a variety of other interventional procedures such as creating AV fistulas for dialysis using a safe, nonsurgical, outpatient technique. He enjoys working with referring cardiologists and nephrologists because providing the highest quality care, he says, requires dedicated teamwork.
Erica Spatz, MD, MHSCardiovascular MedicineErica Spatz, MD, MHS, is a general cardiologist who treats a variety of conditions that relate to the heart and circulatory system. In addition to emphasizing prevention to her patients, she is an active researcher who investigates ways to prevent heart attacks and strokes, so that more people can live long and healthy lives. “The field of prevention is exciting. We are rapidly developing new ways of estimating people’s risk of future heart disease, and we have new medications and tools to reduce that risk,” says Dr. Spatz, who is especially interested in applying “precision medicine” to prevention. This is making conversations with patients in her practice more specific and less generic. “I am thinking, ‘What are the patient’s risk factors? What's unique about their biology, their genetics, and their biography? What are the aspects of their lives that may be contributing to cardiovascular risk or, on the contrary, promoting cardiovascular health? What might be the best strategies for reducing risk and improving their health outcomes?’ The onus is on us as clinicians, physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, to really understand the person before us.” We need to be working at multiple levels to reduce heart disease, Spatz says. “We need strong policies and coordinated community efforts to promote healthier lifestyles and overall well-being. There is so much we can be doing to make ‘healthy’ the easy choice for our population. At the individual level, there is an opportunity to better capture the personalized biological factors, experiences, and behaviors that inform cardiovascular risk—through digital technology and surveys.” Lifestyle changes are often considered the bedrock of preventing heart disease, and while this can be difficult for some people—especially if they are overwhelmed with other life challenges—small achievable goals go a long way, Dr. Spatz says. “I try to think about this from a lifelong perspective. Cardiovascular disease prevention is hard work and people can't be perfect all the time, so I try to find specific things people can work on as well as opportunities when this makes sense in a person's life. If I can help them to define a healthier path, then I think the ripple effects can be massive.” In addition to caring for patients, Dr. Spatz serves as a clinical investigator for the Center for Outcomes Research & Evaluation (CORE), an organization at Yale School of Medicine that focuses on health care quality, where she researches individualized approaches to preventing and managing cardiovascular disease, health disparities across the health care system, and ways to engage patients as partners in their care. She also is a cofounder of Project Access-New Haven—a network of physicians, hospitals, and community organizations partnering to provide donated specialty care to underserved patients in New Haven.
Jeremy Steele, MDPediatrics, Pediatric CardiologyJeremy Steele, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist with advanced training in noninvasive imaging. His work with patients (from newborns to adults) with congenital heart disease is centered around interpreting their cardiac imaging. Dr. Steele also has highly specialized training in performing and interpreting cardiac MRIs and cardiac CT scans, and doing advanced post-process imaging to make virtual 3D re-creations of the heart defects and compute advanced flow hemodynamics (the dynamics of blood flow). This helps in assessing a patient’s physiologic and anatomical status and allows doctors to determine how close or far away their young patients may be from the next surgical intervention if they need one. Some congenital heart defects are more serious than others, but, “By and large, pediatric cardiology is a winning field,” Dr. Steele says. “It really highlights the resiliency of children and their ability to rebound from some of the most complex and prolonged surgeries. Most children do well and are able to lead lives that are very close to normal, or in a lot of cases completely normal.” Dr. Steele says he has always been interested in pediatric cardiology, probably because of the advanced knowledge of anatomy and physiology involved. “This work requires complex next-level thinking, problem-solving, and being able to predict problems before they happen—or analyze and assess problems in real time,” he says. “That’s why imaging was so interesting for me—because I can see the interplay of anatomy and physiology on the screen in front of me.” “I learned from my mentor to always tell my patients that if they go to a cardiology office and the doctor finds them interesting, or there's nobody else in the waiting room like them, they're at the wrong doctor's office,” he says. “You want somebody who sees whatever you have routinely and that's a strength of our Yale Medicine pediatric cardiology group.”
Lawrence Young, MDCardiovascular MedicineLawrence H. Young, MD, is a cardiologist who treats patients suffering from heart conditions, both complex and common. With more than 30 years of experience, Dr. Young also specializes in diagnosing and treating patients with a rare genetic disease called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). “Yale is probably the world's leader in understanding and treating patients with HHT,“ Dr. Young says. HHT is a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormal blood vessel growth and heart failure. As an intern, Dr. Young spent time treating cardiac patients in the cardiac intensive care unit and “decided then and there I wanted to be a cardiologist,“ he says. “I enjoy taking care of acutely ill patients, but I also enjoy seeing patients over time and helping them to stay healthy.“ At the Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Young is a professor of medicine. He leads an active research group, investigating the intersection of heart health and diabetes.