To identify new echocardiographic indexes of long-axis function that might differentiate between pathologic and physiologic left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy, we compared 60 subjects with different types of LV hypertrophy (group I: 15 patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, group II: 15 patients with systemic hypertension, and group III: 30 athletes) with 20 normal subjects (group IV). The peak velocities of mitral annular motion at 4 sites were measured from the apex by tissue Doppler echocardiography. There were no differences in mean age and global ejection fraction between groups. Groups I and II had lower long-axis systolic and early diastolic velocities than the athletes (p <0.01) for all 4 sites. The best differentiation of pathologic from physiologic hypertrophy was provided by a mean systolic annular velocity <9 cm/s (sensitivity 87%, specificity 97%). Heterogeneity of annular velocities discriminated between group I and group II. Thus, long-axis systolic and early diastolic velocities are decreased in patients with pathologic hypertrophy, but preserved in athletes. These simple new echocardiographic parameters can differentiate between pathologic and physiologic hypertrophy.