The upper limit of physiological cardiac hypertrophy in elite male and female athletes: the British experience

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004 Aug;92(4-5):592-7. doi: 10.1007/s00421-004-1052-2. Epub 2004 Mar 31.


Establishment of upper normal limits of physiological hypertrophy in response to physical training is important in the differentiation of physiological and pathological left ventricular hypertrophy. The genetic differences that exist in the adaptive response of the heart to physical training and the causes of sudden cardiac death in young athletes indicate the need for population-specific normal values. Between September 1994 and December 2001, 442 (306 male, 136 female) elite British athletes from 13 sports were profiled. Standard two-dimensional guided M-mode and Doppler echocardiography were employed to evaluate left ventricular morphology and function. Eleven (2.5%) athletes, competing in a range of sports including judo, skiing, cycling, triathlon, rugby and tennis, presented with a wall thickness >13 mm, commensurate with a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Eighteen (5.8%) male athletes presented with a left ventricular internal diameter during diastole (LVIDd) >60 mm, with an upper limit of 65 mm. Of the 136 female athletes, none where found to have a maximum wall thickness >11 mm. Left ventricular internal diameter was <60 mm in all female athletes. Systolic and diastolic function were within normal limits for all athletes. Upper normal limits for left ventricular wall thickness and LVIDd are 14 mm and 65 mm for elite male British athletes, and 11 mm and 60 mm for elite female British athletes. Values in excess of these should be viewed with caution and should prompt further investigation to identify the underlying mechanism.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cardiomegaly / physiopathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Echocardiography, Doppler
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / genetics
  • Physical Fitness / physiology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic / genetics
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sports / physiology*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology
  • Ventricular Remodeling / physiology


  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A