Athlete's heart--effect of age, sex, ethnicity and sporting discipline

Exp Physiol. 2003 Sep;88(5):665-9. doi: 10.1113/eph8802624.


Regular physical training is associated with several physiological and biochemical adaptations which enable an increase in cardiac output and widening of the systemic arterio-venous oxygen difference. An increase in cardiac chamber size is fundamental to the generation of a sustained increase in cardiac output for prolonged periods. Echocardiographic studies have shown that the vast majority of athletes have modest cardiac enlargement although a small proportion exhibit substantial increases in heart size. Recognised determinants of cardiac size include age, sex, ethnicity and type of sport. Cardiac dimensions vary considerably amongst athletes, even when allowances are made for these variables, suggesting that genetic, endocrine and biochemical factors also influence heart size. This review discusses the effects of age, sex, ethnicity and sporting discipline on cardiac dimensions in athletic individuals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Age Distribution
  • Aging / physiology
  • Anthropometry / methods*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Heart / anatomy & histology*
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sports / classification
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ventricular Remodeling / physiology*