Altered cardiac function and minimal cardiac damage during prolonged exercise

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Jul;36(7):1098-103. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000131958.18154.1e.


Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to examine markers of cardiac function and cardiac damage during a simulated half-ironman triathlon in highly trained athletes.

Methods: Nine highly trained male triathletes volunteered for the study (mean +/- SD; age: 33 +/- 3 yr; height: 1.8 +/- 0.1 m; body mass: 77.7 +/- 3.2 kg). The subjects completed a half-ironman triathlon; 1.9-km swim in an indoor 20-m pool, followed by a laboratory-based 90-km cycle and 21.1-km run. Venous blood samples were drawn and echocardiographic assessment completed before the start of exercise, immediately after each stage, and 24 h postexercise. Serum was analyzed for total creatine kinase activity (CK), creatine kinase isoenzyme MB(mass) (CK-MB(mass)), and cardiac troponin T (cTnT). Left ventricular systolic (stroke volume, and systolic blood pressure/end systolic volume ratio (SBP/ESV)) and diastolic (ratio of early [E] to late [A], ventricular filling E:A) measurements were derived from echocardiographic assessment.

Results: The mean completion time of the half-ironman triathlon was 301 +/- 28 min. Left ventricular contractility (SBP/ESV) was significantly reduced after the half-ironman triathlon (P < 0.05). A significant reduction in E:A was observed after the run phase of the half-ironman triathlon (P < 0.05). Significant increases in CK and CK-MB(mass) were observed during and after the half-ironman triathlon (P < 0.05), and cTnT was elevated in four subjects over the course of the half-ironman triathlon.

Conclusions: The physiologic stress imposed by the half-ironman triathlon resulted in a reduced left ventricular contractility and altered diastolic filling, coupled with minimal cardiac damage in a number of highly trained male triathletes. The mechanisms behind such altered cardiac function and cardiac damage after prolonged exercise are yet to be elucidated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiac Output / physiology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Exercise*
  • Heart Function Tests
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Troponin C / analysis


  • Troponin C