Cardiovascular Performance Program

Cardiovascular Performance Program

The Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center offers specialized cardiac care for athletes, including leading treatments for suspected or confirmed heart disease, detailed pre-participation safety screenings and exercise assessments.
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Call to request an appointment or referral: 866-644-8910


A Multidisciplinary Approach to Treating Heart Disease in Athletes

The Cardiovascular Performance Program (CPP) at the Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center offers comprehensive cardiovascular care and physiologic testing for active individuals, ranging from recreational exercisers to professional sports athletes. Our services can be tailored for both healthy individuals and for those with established or suspected heart and vascular disease.
Our goals are to provide comprehensive and timely clinical care, advanced research, education and community outreach. Developed in 2009, our program was the first of its kind and is now an internationally recognized specialized program for athletic patients with cardiovascular disease and/or associated risk factors.

We recognize that athletic patients require unique treatment plans due to the cardiovascular demands of exercise, training-related cardiac adaptations to exercise and special issues specific to sports athletes such as return-to-play decisions. Additionally, we know that many patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease desire to regain or preserve their activity level and exercise performance. We work with patients to help them reach their goals in a safe and productive way.

Our clinicians are leading experts within sports cardiology and committed to preserving and maximizing our patients’ athletic performance. Clinicians in the CPP work with multiple clinical disciplines from across the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center to provide care. This includes close collaborations with specialists in cardiac imaging, electrophysiology, interventional cardiology and cardiac surgery. Additionally, we collaborate with physicians throughout Mass General, including orthopedists, sports medicine physicians, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, pulmonology and other specialties to deliver multidisciplinary care personalized to each patient’s specific needs. 

Providing Comprehensive Heart Care for the Highly Active to the Athletic Professional

The CPP provides comprehensive cardiovascular care to a wide spectrum of athletic patients. We define an athlete as any active individual who enjoys physical activity and exercise or is required to be active on the job.

Athletic patients in our program range from recreational exercisers to professional athletes. We provide care to local and national athletic organizations including U.S. Soccer, USRowing, the National Football League Players Association, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins, New England Revolution, Boston Athletic Association, and numerous local college and university athletic programs.

There are five fundamental practice areas where our cardiovascular specialists play an instrumental role in the care of athletes and highly active individuals. These core clinical areas are:

  • Evaluation of athletes with symptoms suggestive of cardiovascular disease
  • Management of athletes with established cardiovascular diagnoses
  • Distinguishing “athlete’s heart”, a condition in which the heart changes in structure and function to adapt to exercise training, from cardiovascular disease
  • Determining sports eligibility through pre-participation cardiovascular disease screening
  • Helping all athletes who wish to improve their performance

State-of-the-Art Approach to Evaluation and Performance Improvement

A key resource in the clinical evaluation of active individuals is our state-of-the-art Cardiopulmonary Exercise Laboratory. This human performance lab was designed to support leading physiology research and to perform complex exercise testing assessments specific to athletes. The lab houses a wide deck treadmill, a fully customizable up-right cycle ergometer and a rowing ergometer to provide personalized testing for our athletes and patients.

The Cardiopulmonary Exercise Laboratory provides physicians across the region referral-based cardiopulmonary exercise testing (CPET) and serves as a resource for athletes without cardiovascular disease wishing to improve performance. As such, visitors to the CPP human performance laboratory span the spectrum of human health and performance ranging from patients awaiting heart transplants to Olympic competitors.

Determining Sports Eligibility

Many high school and collegiate sports require cardiac screening assessments and consultations prior to participation. These evaluations are designed to prevent athletes with known and unknown pre-existing heart conditions from experiencing cardiac events or sudden death before, during or after exercise.

Clinicians in the CPP perform pre-participation screening for individuals of all ages and athletic aspirations. To screen athletes, our cardiologists start with a detailed medical history and physical exam. A 12-lead electrocardiogram, which measures the heart’s electric activity, is also typically performed. When necessary, we draw on Mass General’s leading echocardiography, radiology and genetic laboratories. Using advanced diagnostic techniques such as cardiac MRI and CT scanning, clinicians evaluate for the specific clinical conditions most relevant to athletes:

  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the structure of the heart is abnormal, resulting in irregular heart rhythms
  • Coronary anomalies
  • Heart valve diseases
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle thickens abnormally
  • Inherited arrhythmias, which lead to irregular heartbeats

Screening results can stop athletes from playing sports their entire lives, so our clinicians consult with the entire multidisciplinary team before making recommendations about participation risk. Many findings are minor and managed with medical therapy in a manner that enables safe sport participation. We also welcome athletes who seek second opinions, and work with patients and their primary doctors to develop a coordinated diagnostic and treatment strategy if needed.

Our clinicians offer individual screenings at our facility or group screenings at onsite locations such as schools, universities and clubs. Athletic trainers and sports medicine groups who wish to improve their proficiency in this area can request our consultation services. To request a consultative service for your group, please call 617-643-7117.

One Call Coordinates Care

Our dedicated nurse coordinator is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm to take relevant information about your condition and make a timely appointment with our team. Call 866-644-8910 to speak to a nurse coordinator or request an appointment online.

Referring a Patient

If you are a physician and would like to refer your patient to the CPP, please call 866-644-8910. Our CPP physicians take a collaborative approach patient care, communicating directly with referring providers to discuss treatment options and care recommendations.¬
We see patients as soon as possible, matching them with a specialist best suited to their needs.

Advancing Sports Performance Through Research

The CPP is a leader in the field of sports cardiology research with more than 90 peer-reviewed publications focused on the clinical care and related physiology of the athletic patient. The CPP faculty hold research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Department of Defense and the National Football League Players Association. Studies have focused on:

  • Using novel echocardiographic techniques to study the cardiac remodeling that occurs in response to exercise training
  • Evaluating ideal methods for pre-participation screening in athletes
  • Identifying the most common causes of cardiac arrest during long-distance running races
  • Examining the cardiac and metabolic adaptations that can occur in response to marathon training

Harvard Athlete Initiative (HAI)

The CPP faculty have developed a collaborative research relationship with the Harvard University Department of Athletics to provide a platform for the study of competitive athletes. Research work completed within the HAI focuses on several key topics including pre-participation screening and cardiac structural and functional remodeling among competitive athletes. Numerous studies have been conducted and published utilizing repeated measurement longitudinal study design, which permits the establishment of a cause and effect relationship between exercise training and cardiac remodeling.

Investing in the Future of Sports Cardiology

Education is among the most important missions of the CPP. In July of 2012, the CPP sponsored its first full-time sports cardiology fellow (a one-year clinical and research offering). Past and current CPP trainees have developed clinical competencies in sports cardiology and have completed original research work leading to presentation at national meetings anfd original manuscript publication. Learn more about the CPP Fellowship

Keeping our Community Healthy

The CPP is a health care resource and partner for athletic events in the Boston community and beyond. This is best exemplified by our partnership with the Boston Athletic Association, for which Aaron Baggish, MD, associate director of the CPP program, serves as a co-medical director. Each year prior to the running of the Boston Marathon, CPP staff and a committed group of health care volunteers provide complimentary training in hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for the community. Since this program’s inception in 2012, our team has taught more than 10,000 runners and spectators this life-saving skill.

Conditions & Diseases

The care team at the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center encourages all patients and family members to learn more about conditions and diseases that affect the heart and overall cardiovascular system. The links below provide more information about heart conditions and diseases that might be treated within this program.

  • Arrhythmias

    Arrhythmias are heart rhythm disorders that may originate in the atria (the receiving chambers of the heart) or the ventricles (the pumping chambers of the heart).

  • Cardiomyopathy

    Cardiomyopathy is any disease of the heart muscle in which the heart loses its ability to pump blood effectively.

  • Coronary Heart Disease

    Coronary heart disease occurs when cholesterol builds up within the walls of the heart’s arteries (coronary arteries), forming what is called plaque.

  • Heart Attack

    A heart attack occurs when one or more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged lack of oxygen caused by blocked blood flow to the heart muscle.

  • Heart Valve Diseases

    The heart’s valves can have one of two malfunctions - regurgitation (when the valve does not completely close) or stenosis (a narrowing of the valve).

Patient Education

Mass General is dedicated to ensuring that people understand their health care choices and have the necessary information to make decisions affecting their health and well being. The related support and wellness information listed below can play a role in treatment options.

  • Patient Guide to Cardiac Surgery (PDF)

    Learn what to expect before, during and after your surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center by downloading and printing our patient guide to cardiac surgery.

  • Understanding and Preparing for a Catheterization Procedure (PDF)

    As you prepare for your catheterization, Massachusetts General Hospital clinicians want you to feel as comfortable as possible. To help you understand what to expect during your visit, this booklet describes key steps of your catheterization procedure.

  • Frequently Asked Questions About Cardiac Anesthesia

    The Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center offers a patient guide to cardiac anesthesia. Our dedicated clinicians believe it is important for you to know what to expect before, during and after a cardiac anesthesia.

  • Visitor's Guide to Cardiac Surgery

    Cardiac nurses at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center offer support and guidance during a family member's open-heart surgery or transplantation.


Phys ed: a workout for your bloodstream
Read an article in the New York Times explaining our research on the effects of exercise on the body

  • Research Roundup February 2018 - 2/23/2018, Mass General

    Research at the MGH is interwoven throughout more than 30 departments, centers and units and is conducted with the support and guidance of the MGH Research Institute. The Research Roundup is a monthly series highlighting studies, news and events.

  • New Mass General research shows chronic anabolic steroid use may damage heart, arteries - 5/22/2017, Mass General

    “Every practicing cardiologist should be thinking about steroid use as potential patient risk factor for heart disease,” says Aaron Baggish, MD, associate director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cardiovascular Performance Program. Baggish is the co-lead author of new research indicating chronic anabolic-androgenic steroid use may be damaging to the heart and the coronary arteries.

  • Widening the field - 4/3/2015, Mass General

    Aaron Baggish, MD, associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Minehan Heart Center studied the effects of strength training of the hearts of NFL players.

  • Hutter named first Macomber Family Endowed Scholar - 10/26/2012, Mass General

    Adolph M. Hutter Jr., MD, was named the inaugural Macomber Family Endowed Scholar for Cardiovascular Performance Innovation during a Sept. 24 ceremony.

  • MGH goes red for women's heart health - 2/18/2011, Mass General

    MGH Hotline 2.18.11 Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the MGH Heart Center and Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program brought attention to hearts everywhere by celebrating “Go Red for Women” month with a series of events and activities to raise awareness of heart disease in women.


  • Aaron Baggish, MD, warns that even highly active people can develop heart disease

    Aaron Baggish, MD, warns that even highly active people can develop heart disease

    Aaron Baggish, MD, Associate Director for the Cardiovascular Performance Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center explains how heart problems are diagnosed in highly active people and how Mass General specialists help them exercise safely to reduce the risk of heart attack.

  • A Winning Heart: Allison’s Story

    A Winning Heart: Allison's Story

    Allison Renna, triathlete and mother of three, suffered a heart attack at the age of 36. In this video, Allison talks about the cardiac episode that brought her to Mass General, and her experience with the Cardiovascular Performance Program.

  • Head Strong, Heart First: Ted’s Story

    Head Strong, Heart First: Ted's Story

    Ted Kakas, international-level masters rower, has suffered from atrial fibrillation and coronary artery disease. In this video, Ted talks about his appreciation for the Mass General Cardiovascular Performance Program as both an athlete and a patient. Learn how Dr. Baggish and his team are able to work with to Ted keep him out on the water.

  • An Athlete at Heart: Chris’s Story

    An Athlete at Heart: Chris's Story

    Chris Duffy, a professional cyclist, was diagnosed with heart failure at just 23. At age 29, he underwent a heart transplant. In this video, Chris talks about the Mass General Cardiovascular Performance Program and how Dr. Aaron Baggish and his team have been able to keep him on his bike.


Contact Us

Corrigan Minehan Heart Center

55 Fruit Street Boston, MA 02114
  • Near Public Transit
  • Accessible
  • Phone: 866-644-8910

If you are a new patient, you may call the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center outpatient access office at 866-644-8910, or complete our online appointment form to request an appointment. A member of our access team will ask you more about your condition and symptoms, and match you with the best-fitting Corrigan Minehan Heart Center physician.

Request an appointment Request a second opinion

Call to request an appointment or referral: 866-644-8910

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