Active Voice: ACSM World Heart Games Returns in 2022 to Help CVD Patients Reclaim the Joy of Sport
By F. Stuart Sanders, M.D., FACSM, FACP, MAACVPR

The next ACSM World Heart Games (WHG) will take place in approximately 10 months on the beautiful Lenoir-Rhyne University campus in Hickory, North Carolina, from June 3-4, 2022. In today’s Active Voice Commentary, we connect with WHG founder Dr. Sanders to talk about the goals of the games, the benefits for participants, and how WHG plays an integral role in ACSM’s mission to promote healthy lifestyles through regular physical activity.

What are the ACSM World Heart Games, and how do participants benefit?
It’s an Olympic-style event that provides two days of safe, fun and relational competition for those who have experienced a cardiopulmonary event or live with risk factors. Specifically, the World Heart Games seek to:
  • Promote cardiovascular fitness and cardiac rehabilitation
  • Provide safe and fun sports competition for cardiac patients
  • Improve camaraderie and teamwork among rehab professionals and patients
  • Provide research opportunities
WHG is really a chance for participants to reclaim the joy of sports. Participants come highly motivated and excited for the chance to compete and connect with others from around the world. These “cardiac athletes” prepare for the games weeks and months in advance through physical training and skill development.

What events will be offered in 2022?
WHG offers many different sporting events that can be performed safely in a manner consistent with each participant’s health status, fitness and skills. All competitors must secure approval from their physician to participate. They can participate individually or form teams (e.g., those from a given cardiac rehabilitation facility). The team experience adds a significant social dimension to preparations and further enables participants to increase confidence to safely be physically active and develop camaraderie with others through the joy of competition.

Individuals can register for several different endurance events, each of which requires the competitor to predict their finish time within submaximal performance limits familiar to them. The individual events for 2022 include: basketball, bowling, disc golf, game of knowledge, golf putting, pickleball singles, racquetball, soccer shoot (men and women), softball throw (men and women), table tennis, tennis singles, as well as the prediction walk, jog, Airdyne bike, Nustep, row and swim. Team-based events are cornhole, golf (two-man scramble), pickleball (doubles), tennis (doubles) and volleyball.

WHG is safe and well supported with medical personnel and equipment in key areas and qualified volunteers who supervise events throughout the venue.

Are any scholarships available to help offset the cost?
Yes, we offer three $1,000 international scholarships. Teams of at least two athletes who reside outside the U.S. are eligible. We also offer five $1,000 scholarships thanks to support from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). Teams of at least two athletes from programs in the U.S. are eligible. You can find more details at acsm.org/whg2022.

What message does WHG convey to the public?
Through WHG, ACSM seeks to encourage understanding among physicians, patients and communities about these major health concerns: The takeaway, of course, is that a cardiac condition need not interfere with an active, socially independent life.

Does ACSM collaborate with any other organizations on the WHG initiative?
ACSM partners with AACVPR and LSI Medical for valuable financial and logistical support.

AACVPR, a society of health professionals in the field of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, recognizes that many of the cardiac athletes at WHG either have or currently are participating in cardiac rehabilitation, which is why they offer scholarships to help defray costs for team participation.

LSI is an industry leader of cardiopulmonary monitoring and clinical documentation technologies and solutions. This event gives LSI the opportunity to advocate for patients who use technology daily in CR programs. Much of their business involves helping clinicians educate and work with patients to embrace healthier lifestyles after they have had a cardiac event.

How can ACSM members participate or promote participation in the 2022 WHG for qualified candidates?
Members can host a fundraiser or sponsor activities like a Relay for Rehab to help send teams to the World Heart Games. You can also encourage businesses in your community to support this worthwhile event! Detailed information is available on WHG's webpage, including a downloadable brochure, registration form and participant release/waiver. You can also contact ACSM World Heart Games Coordinator Tiffany McCall for details about the event or to learn how you can help.

Anything else you’d like to add?
A project the magnitude of the ACSM World Heart Games would not be possible without a group of dedicated professionals serving on the organizing committee. Several of them have been on the committee and actively involved since the inception of the games. Join me in thanking the organizing committee: John P. Porcari, Ph.D., FACSM, MAACVPR; Carl N. King, Ed.D., MAACVPR; Walt R. Thompson, Ph.D., FASCM, FAACVPR; Debra B. Lund, MS, RCEP, FAACVPR; Korey Sixbury, President, LSI; Thomas A. Draper, MBA, MAACVPR; Kristin Belleson, CEO, ACSM; Eric Utterback, ACSM and Tiffany M. Maxson, MHA, Event Coordinator.

About the author:
F. Stuart Sanders, M.D., FACSM, FACP, MAACVPR, is an internal and sports medicine physician. He has initiated and directed the Habersham Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Cardiovascular Fitness Programs in Demorest, Georgia since 1986. Dr. Sanders also is an adjunct professor of medicine (cardiology) at the Emory University School of Medicine and has served as a physician for four Olympic Games and two Paralympic Games. He currently serves as a Team USA Figure Skating Physician.

Viewpoints presented in SMB commentaries reflect opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent positions or policies of ACSM. Active Voice authors who have received financial or other considerations from a commercial entity associated with their topic must disclose such relationships at the time they accept an invitation to write for SMB.