Endurance rather than sprint running training increases left ventricular wall thickness in female athletes

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Feb;102(3):307-11. doi: 10.1007/s00421-007-0586-5. Epub 2007 Oct 17.


Competitive athletics is often associated with moderate left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy. The aim of this study was to shed more light on the extent and type of cardiac hypertrophic response to different athletic conditioning in females. Standard two-dimensional M-mode and Doppler echocardiography was performed at rest in Caucasian female sprinters (n = 10) and long-distance runners (n = 10) of similar age (range 16-34 years), training experience (5-18 years) and competitive level, and in age-matched healthy female sedentary controls (n = 10). No differences in echocardiographic parameters were detected between female sprinters and sedentary controls (p > 0.05). Interventricular septum and LV wall (p < 0.05) were thicker, and LV mass was greater (p < 0.01) in long-distance runners as compared with sprinters or sedentary controls. Absolute LV diameter was not increased in long-distance runners (p > 0.05), though relative LV diameter was higher in long-distance runners as compared to sprinters (p < 0.05). As compared with controls, relative wall thickness (the sum of LV wall thickness and interventricular septum thickness divided by LV diameter) was higher (p = 0.004) in long-distance runners. Neither systolic nor diastolic LV parameters were different among the groups (p > 0.05). In conclusion, sprint running training has not been found to induce alterations in cardiac morphology or function at rest in female athletes. Cardiac mass in female long-distance runners is higher mainly due to myocardial wall thickening, while integral myocardial function at rest is not affected as a consequence of either this hypertrophy or sprint training.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Echocardiography, Doppler
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Heart Septum / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / metabolism*
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Sports
  • Ventricular Function
  • Ventricular Function, Left