Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Should athletes have nuclear stress tests?"


I worry about suddenly having a heart attack on the field. I am 35 and have played football my entire life.


A nuclear stress test is a specialized study that is designed to obtain a detailed look at the blood flow to your heart. It is used as a method to look for defects in this blood flow. Defects that are found are usually caused by coronary artery disease, also known as blockages in these vessels.

See a doctor who can help

Find a Primary care-doctors near you

The test is reserved for those that are having symptoms that are concerning for coronary artery disease. These symptoms include excessive shortness of breath with minimal exertion and chest pain with exertion. The test is also usually reserved for patients are unable to undergo an exercise stress test. Athletes that do not have these symptoms do not routinely undergo these tests. If you are concerned about having a heart attack some day, then I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can review your risk factors for coronary artery disease including family history of heart disease, cholesterol, and blood pressure. If there is anything that needs corrected, then your doctor can recommend changes to your life style or changes to your diet. If you report any concerning symptoms such as chest pain with exercise, then you may benefit from an exercise stress test (as apposed to a nuclear test). Good luck.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.