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IU Health doctor hoping to intercept heart ailments at NFL Scouting Combine

IU Health doctor leads heart screenings at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — 350 former college football players will begin their journey to the NFL on Feb. 26 when the NFL Scouting Combine opens at Lucas Oil Stadium.

But before any player can take the field, they have to clear a heart examination by Dr. Richard Kovacs, a Cardiologist at IU Health. They are hooked up to an electric cardiogram and screened for potential symptoms.

“It could be an abnormality of the heart rhythm, it could be an abnormality of what we call conduction the way the electricity flows through the heart with a heartbeat,” said Kovacs.

Kovacs has supervised the screenings since 1990. he said it’s extremely rare for a player to be held out of the combine due to heart problems, but some are flagged for additional testing.

“All of tat information, the original information, the actual images, the electric cardiograms, the results of a physical examinations, go to all 32 teams, and whether they’re drafted or not, the team, their team physician, and team cardiologists decide that,” said Kovacs.

Kovacs said an athlete’s heart is different from the average person depending on the sport and how much the athlete trains. That’s why extra scrutiny is given to their electrocardiograms.

“We have discovered things, often correctible things, that have helped players get into the league and probably have longer more productive careers in the league,” said Kovacs.

Despite the rigors of football, Kovacs said NCAA Division 1 basketball players are at a higher risk for heart ailments.

“We have struggled with that in the field for decades, whether that’s the kinds of players, the sport, or the training, and we haven’t figured that out yet,” said Kovacs.

Because of Lucas Oil Stadium’s close proximity to several hospitals, Kovacs thinks it’s likely the combine will stay in Indianapolis for years to come.