The Importance of Sports Cardiologists for Athletes

Getting a diagnosis from a doctor is something we should all take to heart, but when a young athlete with dreams of joining the majors learned he couldn’t play baseball anymore, he had to get a second opinion.

Ryker Faircloth has been playing baseball since he was 4 years old.

“I feel like I’m a superstar when I’m on the field out there,” Ryker said.

He always dreamed of playing the big leagues. But an incidental finding and a misdiagnosis almost took it all away.

“Ryker, on a screening EKG was found to have PVCs which are irregular heartbeats that come from the bottom chambers of the heart,” explained Dr. Eli Friedman, sports cardiologist with Memorial Healthcare System.

PVCs are also known as premature ventricular contractions. They’re harmless for most people but they worried Ryker’s doctors, so they opted to perform an ablation – a procedure meant to correct the problem.

“Boom. That’s where it all started. I went into cardiac arrest the first surgery- the next day they put in my defibrillator,” Ryker recalled as he revealed a scar on his chest. For Ryker, the blow was intense and potentially life-altering.

“I was told I wouldn’t be able to play baseball anymore and I wouldn’t even be able to work out and hitting me like that just waking up from surgery – it was a big deal,” explained Ryker.

So when it came to his passion for baseball, he wasn’t ready to let go. He got a second opinion about his heart from the new sports cardiology team at Memorial Healthcare Systems.

“Through testing, though we found out that he just has these as a natural phenomenon for him and they do not pose any risk for him,” Dr. Friedman said.

Ryker still has to keep his defibrillator in place because removing it could be an unnecessary surgery, but now that he’s been given a clean bill of health, he’s ready to hit the ground running and he’s thankful for his new medical team.

“Just walking in the door, seeing everybody smiling talking to the people, talking to the workers it’s like I came here and we already knew each other,” Ryker said with a smile.

Dr. Freidman urges any athletes, whether you’re a pro or a weekend warrior, to visit a sports cardiologist for regular screenings. And if you’re an athlete or not, always keep in mind these warning signs and seek medical attention if needed:

• Shortness of breath disproportionate to the exercise

• Heart palpitations

• Chest pains

To learn more about Memorial Healthcare System’s new sports cardiology team or about keeping your heart in good shape make sure to visit the NBC 6 and Telemundo 51 Grand Family Expo happening March 31 from 12 p.m.-5 p.m. at Sawgrass Mills.