When it comes to screening student athletes for serious heart conditions, New Jersey is on the cutting edge – and Atlantic Health System has stepped up to lead the way.
Atlantic Health System has created a new Sports Cardiology Program to offer heart screenings, education and follow-up with any specialty care an athlete needs as well as to establish safe levels of physical activity. It is the first of its kind, created in response to research that shed light on the growing numbers of athletes with heart conditions.
“We’ve been reaching athletes of all ages, young and old, and those on club teams, school teams and professional ones,” says Damion Martins, MD, director of orthopedics and sports medicine for Atlantic Health System, and team physician for the New York Jets. Along with only a few other states, New Jersey requires special heart assessments for children aged 19 and younger.
In April of 2016, a national board of cardiologists and the American Heart Association recommended heart screenings for college athletes, too – but only by physicians trained to do so.
“We have one of the biggest, most comprehensive sports medicine programs in the state,” Dr. Martins says. “It makes sense that we would provide this important service.”
In addition to screenings, Atlantic Health System’s program includes additional layers of care when its physicians identify a heart condition.
“Whether they’re 16 or 60, and older, we can help them determine any limitations they have, so that sports and exercise remains a part of their life,” says Matthew Martinez, MD, an international expert in sports cardiology who leads the Sports Cardiology Program at Atlantic Health System.
In the highly specialized field of sports medicine, cardiologists here are uniquely qualified to provide what can be lifesaving tests for young athletes, as well as adults.
“Even when ‘red flags’ appear in heart tests, they can be overlooked by physicians who do not have the training,” says Linda D. Gillam, MD, chair of cardiovascular medicine for Atlantic Health System. “We have that training. We want to establish safe levels of physical activity.”