New sports medicine/cardiology clinic to serve young athletes

Clinical experience during COVID-19 showed that a combination of sports medicine and pediatric cardiology would be helpful for young athletes.
Written by: Emma Shepard
Media contact: Bob Shepard

Young girl playing soccerClinical experience during COVID-19 showed that a combination of sports medicine and pediatric cardiology would be helpful for young athletes.Athletes, especially young athletes, want to play. A new clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is focused on helping young athletes return to the playing field quickly and safely.

UAB Sports Medicine, a partnership between the UAB School of Medicine Departments of Orthopaedic SurgeryFamily and Community Medicine and the Division of Pediatric Cardiology in the Department of Pediatrics, has established a multidisciplinary sports medicine and cardiology clinic.

The highly specialized clinic is for the athlete who needs simultaneous cardiology and sports medicine treatment. It is designed to treat adolescent and young adult athletes with issues such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) — a blood circulation disorder — as well as athletes with select post-COVID cardiology conditions, such as myopathy and post-COVID fatigue.

Sara Gould, M.D., associate professor of orthopaedic surgery, and Camden Hebson, M.D., assistant professor of pediatric cardiology in the Department of Pediatrics, are leading the clinic efforts. They will be supported by an athletic trainer as well as several support staff to optimize the patient experience. Gould says the clinic is the perfect collaboration.

“We realized there was a real need for young athletes to be able to see a sports medicine physician and a cardiologist in the same clinic visit,” Gould said. “This is a highly collaborative effort, and our patients will benefit greatly from our shared experiences. Our goal is to help get these kids and young adults back to their sports.”

Ultimately, the clinic aims to get athletes back to their pre-COVID-19 performance level or higher. Since serious cardiology conditions can sometimes accompany COVID-19 cases, all athletes who experienced a symptomatic COVID-19 case should be medically cleared, specifically for cardiomyopathy.

In order to clear athletes to return to their sport, the clinic will order and review an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which records the electric signal from the heart. Following an EKG, the clinic will do an echocardiogram to confirm whether the patient has cardiomyopathy, which can be induced by COVID-19.

Sara Gould, M.D. Sara Gould, M.D.
(Photo by: Steve Wood)
The clinic also treats athletes who are experiencing post-COVID fatigue. Specialists can test the patient to determine their current level of fitness, set goals with the patient and then build a treatment plan with exercise prescriptions to reach their goals.

Although the clinic treats athletes with select post-COVID symptoms, it is not a post-COVID clinic due to its highly specialized care. For patients looking for a treatment option for other persistent COVID-19 symptoms, UAB has established a Post-COVID Treatment Program.

The sports cardiology clinic, which opens in late May, will be located on the UAB Highlands Campus. For more information or clinic appointments, call 205-930-8339.