Alteration in left ventricular normal and shear strains evaluated by 2D-strain echocardiography in the athlete's heart

J Physiol. 2008 Oct 1;586(19):4721-33. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2008.156323. Epub 2008 Aug 7.


The contraction of cardiomyocytes induces a systolic increase in left ventricular (LV) normal (radial, circumferential and longitudinal) and shear strains, whose functional consequences have not been evaluated, so far, in athletes. We used 2D ultrasound speckle tracking imaging (STI) to evaluate LV regional strain in high-level cyclists compared to sedentary controls. Sixteen male elite cyclists and 23 sedentary controls underwent conventional, tissue Doppler, and STI echocardiography at rest. We assessed LV long and short axis normal strains and shear strains. We evaluated circumferential-longitudinal shear strain from LV torsion, and circumferential-radial shear strain from the difference between subendocardial and subepicardial torsion. Apical radial strain (42.7 +/- 10.5% versus 52.2 +/- 14.3%, P < 0.05) and LV torsion (6.0 +/- 1.8 deg versus 9.2 +/- 3.2 deg, P < 0.01) were lower in cyclists than in controls, respectively. Rotations and torsion were higher in the subendocardial than in the subepicardial region in sedentary controls, but not in cyclists. Haemodynamic and tissue Doppler based indexes of global LV diastolic and systolic functions were not different between cyclists and controls. Athlete's heart is associated with specific LV adaptation including lower apical strain and lower myocardial shear strains, with no change in global LV diastolic and systolic function. These mechanical alterations could improve the cardiovascular adjustments to exercise by increasing the radial strain and torsional (and thus untwisting) response to exercise, a key element of diastolic filling and thus of cardiac performance in athletes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Echocardiography, Doppler
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Rotation
  • Shear Strength
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Torsion, Mechanical
  • Ventricular Function, Left*
  • Young Adult