Find out how you can join the study.

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A study to assess the risk factors of heart disease

Find out how you can join the study

What Is The HUDDLE Study?

The Huddle Study was designed to increase awareness about participant’s personal heart health and the impact of heart disease in the community — in particular, in communities where heart disease may be more likely to go undiagnosed and untreated.

We recruited nearly 500 eligible NFL Alumni, coaches, and extended family to participate in heart health screening events.  Participants underwent two non-invasive “heart screening” procedures that could detect certain types of heart disease.  We also shared Information on heart function, heart diseases, and how to live a heart healthy life.

The HUDDLE Study was concluded in August of 2022.  We held eight events across the country and had nearly 500 participants representing almost every NFL team.  While the data is currently being reviewed for publication, there were three very significant outcomes making the study a tremendous success:

100% participation – every individual that began the study, completed the study

Several of our NFL brethren were able to get immediate treatment for serious conditions that they were unaware of prior to their participation in the Study.

No matter which team we played on during our years in the NFL, we are all on the same team now.  And our goal is to take care of each other!

HUDDLE Study Sites

Irvine, CA

Houston, TX

Dallas, TX

Palo Alto, CA

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Phoenix,  AZ

Chicago, IL

Atlanta, GA

Teams Represented

How did participants rate their experience in the HUDDLE Study?

4.9 out of 5

The best and most professional presentation that I have been involved with over the years through the NFL and NFLPA.

Everything far exceeded any expectations!

Thank you for everything you’ve done and are doing to save lives - “one heartbeat at a time.”  We are extremely grateful.

I was very impressed by not only the education but the Personal Touch behind it was very classy and top-notch.

Your TEAM WAS absolutely amazing. What a great opportunity we just got from all of you and what a pro bowl team you have put together.

What did the HUDDLE Study participants learn?

How the heart and heart related illnesses can be so easily overlooked.

That minorities are at higher risks and that heredity matters.


Everyone needs to be more pro-active about their heart and their risk factors.

I am a primary candidate for heart disease and must change my lifestyle!!

I thought that the only way to be really healthy was to keep my "numbers" low and avoid medication at all cost. I learned  that keeping my "numbers" low was important, but that there was also a protective and positive side of using medications should I need them.

How did the HUDDLE Study impact our staff?

“Working on the Huddle Study was very moving for me as a researcher.  I have spent years working with data from clinical trials trying to affect change in healthcare.  This time however, through the Huddle Study participants, data was transformed into real people whom I met, touched, broke bread with over lunch and saw up-close what was happening to them personally as a result of the disparities in access to education and care.  Because of their honesty and trust, and the openness they shared with me, I am forever changed and will continue to advocate and fight for them and others…because I will never forget their faces, their names, and their incredible stories. ”

Jaime Wheeler S.V.P. Clinical Affairs, Edwards Lifesciences

“This experience gave me a much deeper appreciation for the value that Edwards puts on people.  Our motto is “Patients First” and HUDDLE couldn’t have been a better example of this.  We got to people BEFORE they were patients – how much more “first” could we get?!”

Tenley Koepnick, V.P. Global Clinical Research, Edwards Lifesciences

“This work is critically important,  Many people talk about these issues, but few people actually do anything.  Together, we found a way to conduct a trial that could be a critical first step in changing guidelines and improving patient care.  Inspired!”  

Larry Wood, Corporate VP,  TAVR, Edwards Lifesciences

“I am the daughter of a college football player. Growing up, if there were two football games going on, we had two TV sets tuned in! Sadly, my father died at the age of 60 of a massive heart attack on the tennis court. Football and heart disease impacted my life.  The Huddle Study participants became family to me. “

Margaret Cypher, Legacy Health Strategies Concierge

How were the HUDDLE Study Team physicians impacted?

Dr. Lee Rice

“I was the team physician for the San Diego Chargers for 16 years and have also worked with college, professional and Olympic athletes in a wide variety of sports.  Despite all of that experience, I simply did not realize the level of mistrust my African American brothers have for our health care system.  The Huddle Study increased my awareness and fueled my determination to shift that perception.  It will change the way I practice medicine for the rest of my life.”

Lee Rice, DO
HUDDLE Study Principal Physician

“It was a pleasure and an honor for me to work on the Huddle Study.  I understand the reluctance of those individuals who are black like me to attend an event of this nature since many feel they will be treated differently because of the color of their skin. I want all of my brothers and sisters to know that times are changing! Due to increased awareness of health disparities, significant efforts are being made to bridge those disparities.  It’s time for us to start trusting the system, time to start having some faith that there are people out there like the Huddle Team who care about us and will advocate for us. “

Michael Amponsah MD, FACC, FSCAI
Cardiologist, Abrazo Health. Peoria,  AZ

“I have spent the past few years as a physician scientist with a focus on bridging the research practice gap in cardiovascular diseases. Being part of the HUDDLE study was humbling as I experienced in real time the vast disparities in cardiovascular diseases care especially in the African American population. The HUDDLE study was an opportunity to educate, diagnose and set up foundations for future treatment and care plans. As physicians, we have to look further than the patients in front of us, and comprehensively address the structural inequities that increase an individuals risk for developing cardiovascular pathologies. Until we do that, our practice guidelines may continue to exist in a vacuum.”

Alexis K Okoh, MD
Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Emory University

Why the HUDDLE Study is important

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Every 25 seconds an American has a cardiovascular event.

72% of Americans don’t believe they are at risk of a cardiovascular event.

2 non-invasive tests, an “echo” and an EKG, can detect many signs of heart disease.

The HUDDLE Study Coaches

Mike Haynes

“I have a heart to huddle

because I found out that I had a catastrophic disease before having any symptoms. I want to help others be proactive about their health, set goals, and not to rely on luck, like I did, to stay healthy.

Mike Haynes
Former Professional Football Player
Patriots 1976-1982, Raiders 1983-1989

Rolf Benirschke

“I have a heart to huddle

because protecting my NFL brothers will always be a part of who I am.

Rolf Benirschke
Former Professional Football Player
San Diego Chargers 1977-1986

Ed White

“I have a heart to huddle

because I almost died from undiagnosed heart disease; I want to help others recognize the signs and symptoms early, before it becomes a more serious issue.”

Ed White
Former Professional Football Player
Vikings 1969-1977, Chargers 1978-1985

Dr. Lee Rice

“I have a heart to huddle

because as past Chair of the San Diego Heart Association and a family physician,  I realize that cardiac deaths are largely preventable through risk modification, early detection and aggressive management.

Dr. Lee Rice
Study Doctor
Former San Diego Chargers Team Doctor

Everyone I spoke to about your event was so happy that 'Huddle' cares about them and others. I've been telling everyone I know. Thank you and the whole team for being so organized.
It confirmed that I am doing the right thing with my doctor and it gave me a better understanding of what is available to me and the Black and other minority communities.
I was very happy to get screened for this event. It gave me some assurance where I stood about my heart. What I need to do to keep it healthy, and live a long time. I was very glad I participated in the study and felt very positive after the study.

What to Expect

Each participant in the HUDDLE Study will undergo two non-invasive procedures: an echocardiogram (“echo”), and an electrocardiogram (EKG). These procedures will provide important information on the structure and function of the heart, its valves, and its electrical signals; they are commonly used to detect heart disease. Neither procedure involves puncturing or breaking the skin or requires anything to be put inside the body.

Complete the form below; one of our Study Concierges will contact you with more information.

Attend a HUDDLE Study event to get screened and learn more about heart health.

About 30 days after the event, one of the study doctors will review your results with you by phone or video conference and provide any necessary educational and referral information.

Participating in the HUDDLE Study

You may qualify if you:

Are an NFL Alumni player, coach, or extended family

Are age 50 or older

You may not qualify if you:

Have been diagnosed with COPD

Have a breast or pectoral implant on the left side of your chest

Have a BMI of 50 or higher

Have not received either a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result prior to the screening event, in alignment with local and regional guidelines

Let's Get Started
Click Here to Learn More about Heart Disease

Types of Heart Disease

There are many different types of heart disease. Some of these can be grouped together based on the underlying cause or how they affect the function of the heart.

Click Here to Download Educational Presentation (PDF)

Coronary artery and vascular disease arise from problems with blood vessels that reduce blood flow and affect heart function. Coronary artery disease, which causes most heart attacks, is the most common type of heart disease.

Structural heart disease occurs when the structures of the heart—including the heart valves, walls, and chambers—are affected. Congenital heart disease is present at birth; other conditions, such as aortic stenosis, occurs as calcium builds up in the aortic valve over time.

Heart rhythm disorders are due to changes in the heart’s normal electrical signals. These changes can cause the heart to beat too slowly, too quickly, or with an irregular rhythm.

Heart failure develops after the heart has been damaged, for example, as a result of untreated high blood pressure or heart attack.

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Symptoms vary depending on the type of heart disease and can differ in women and men. For example, with coronary artery disease, women are less likely than men to experience chest pain, and more likely to experience nausea and extreme fatigue.

Certain symptoms are common to several different kinds of heart disease and are sometimes ignored as “just part of getting older.” These can include:

Shortness of breath



Lightheadedness or dizziness

Fluttering or racing heartbeat

Swelling of the ankles, feet, or legs

How to Get Diagnosed

When you go for a medical check-up, there are various tests your doctor can  use to determine how well your heart is functioning and assess whether you have any signs of heart disease. To start, your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history, talk to you about any symptoms you are having, listen to your heart with a stethoscope, and check your pulse and blood pressure.

Based on the initial assessment, your doctor may order further tests. The type of test ordered will depend on what condition your doctor thinks may be causing your symptoms. Two common procedures used to check for heart disease are an electrocardiogram (an EKG) and an echocardiogram (often called an “echo”).

What is an echocardiogram, or echo?

An echocardiogram, or echo, is a non-invasive procedure which uses ultrasound to capture images of your heart’s structures and how they are working. It is similar to the procedure pregnant women undergo to check on the health of their baby. An echo provides information about the size and shape of the heart and how the heart valves are functioning. It can also show the location and extent of any existing damage to heart tissue and valves.

Watch Echo Video

What is an EKG?

An EKG, or electrocardiogram, is a non-invasive procedure for recording the heart’s electrical signals. It uses electrode pads to detect these signals (no electric signals or pulses are sent into the chest or heart by the pads). An EKG is used to monitor heart health by providing information about whether the heart’s electrical signals are normal, fast, slow, or irregular.

Watch EKG Video

More Heart Health Resources