Aortic root dilatation among young competitive athletes: echocardiographic screening of 1929 athletes between 15 and 34 years of age

Am Heart J. 2000 Apr;139(4):723-8. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8703(00)90055-3.


Background: Aortic dilatation can be lethal for young competitive athletes. The prevalence among athletes is not known, however, and thus a reasonable approach to early recognition remains uncertain.

Methods and results: Echocardiograms of 1929 normotensive athletes 15 to 34 years of age were analyzed. Five (0.26%) athletes had aortic dilatation; 4 of the 5 played basketball. This made the prevalence of aortic dilatation 0.96% (4 of 415) among basketball and volleyball players, who represented a population of especially tall athletes. Tallness aside, only 2 of the 5 athletes had features of Marfan syndrome. Among the athletes without aortic dilatation, the relation between body surface area and aortic root dimension was nonlinear and best described with a quadratic regression model. Athletes with aortic dilatation fell well outside the 95% confidence interval.

Conclusion: Because a higher incidence of aortic dilatation is to be anticipated among very tall athletes, inclusion of echocardiography in screening before participation in certain sports should be considered.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aorta, Thoracic / diagnostic imaging
  • Aorta, Thoracic / physiopathology
  • Aortic Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Aortic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / diagnostic imaging
  • Dilatation, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Echocardiography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Marfan Syndrome / diagnostic imaging*
  • Marfan Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Mass Screening*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports / physiology*