Background: Conflicting data have been reported about the nature (physiologic versus pathologic) of left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy in master athletes.
Aim of the study: To analyze LV and right ventricular (RV) myocardial function in master athletes with LV hypertrophy induced by either endurance or strength training.
Methods: Standard Doppler echo and colour Doppler Myocardial Imaging (DMI) of LV and of RV basal lateral walls were performed in 40 competitive master (>45 years) endurance athletes (ATE), in 20 master strength-trained athletes (ATS) and 25 age-matched healthy sedentary subjects, all males. By use of DMI, the following parameters of myocardial function were assessed: systolic peak velocities, precontraction time, contraction time, early (E(m)) and late (A(m)) diastolic peak velocities, E(m)/A(m) ratio, relaxation time.
Results: The two groups were comparable for age, but ATS at rest showed higher heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and body surface area. LV mass index did not significantly differ between the two groups of athletes. However, ATS showed increased wall thickness and relative wall thickness, while LV stroke volume and both LV and RV end-diastolic diameters were greater in ATE. All transmitral and transtricuspid Doppler indexes were higher in ATE. DMI analysis showed in ATE higher E(m) and E(m)/A(m) ratio at the level of both RV and LV lateral walls. In the overall population of athletes, linear regression models evidenced independent positive association of RV peak E(m) velocity with both LV stroke volume and maximal workload achieved by bicycle ergometer (both p<0.001).
Conclusions: RV early diastolic myocardial function is positively influenced by preload increase in master athletes and represents an independent determinant of cardiac performance during physical effort. Therefore, colour DMI may be taken into account to distinguish different cardiac adaptation to either endurance or strength sport training in master athletes.