Background: Echocardiography of endurance athletes has demonstrated a substantial increase in left ventricular mass with no disturbance of diastolic function as assessed by the e:a ratio. Few studies have examined the right ventricle of athletes. The present study evaluated diastolic function of both right and left ventricles of endurance athletes through use of measurements of the motion of the atrioventricular (AV) plane.
Methods: Endurance athletes (runners) and sedentary subjects were studied. All subjects were male, aged 30-45 years and were free of cardiovascular disease. There were 21 runners and 40 sedentary subjects. The diastolic motion of the AV plane was assessed by measurement of total displacement and peak early velocity.
Results: The runners had a greater peak oxygen consumption (ml kg(-1) min(-1)) (59.5 vs. 33.5, P<10(-3)) and left ventricular mass (g) (281 vs. 202, P<10(-3)). The e:a ratio for both groups was similar (1.41 vs. 1.45, P=0.8). Both total displacement and peak early velocity for both ventricles were similar between groups, P>0.3. No correlation with age was found for total displacement or peak early velocity for either group in either ventricle, with the exception of peak early velocity for the right ventricle in the runners, where a highly significant correlation was found: peak early velocity=24.0-0.4 age, r(2)=0.75, P=10(-5).
Conclusion: Chronic endurance training is associated with a greater LV mass than in comparable sedentary subjects. Despite this, no effect on AV plane motion was found. A decline in right ventricular peak early velocity of the AV plane with increasing age was identified in the runners. This was an unexpected finding and requires further study.