The influence of extreme mixed exertion load on the right ventricular dimensions and function in elite athletes: a tissue Doppler study

Echocardiography. 2011 Aug;28(7):753-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-8175.2011.01437.x. Epub 2011 May 25.


Aims: The athlete's heart is a widely discussed topic regarding the adaptation of the left ventricle (LV) to regular training. The data on the morphology and-even more-the function of the right ventricle (RV) are less well studied. The aim of the study was to assess the influence of prolonged exertion on morphology and function of the RV.

Methods and results: We examined 38 elite athletes, members of the Polish Olympic Team and a control group of 41 age and sex-matched healthy volunteers. Specifically, we assessed the details of RV size and function including: RV enlargement, transtricuspid systolic gradient, and dilatation of main pulmonary artery (PA) as compared with the values derived from the control group. There was no significant difference in the function of the RV assessed using tissue Doppler echocardiography (TDE) between the athletes and controls (S': 15.0 cm/sec vs. 14.0 cm/sec; E': 15.8 cm/sec vs. 15.7 cm/sec; A': 9.9 cm/sec vs. 10.4 cm/sec), but the athletes had a higher transtricuspid systolic gradient (23.6 mm Hg vs. 19.0 mm Hg, P = 0.004). There were no significant differences in TDE velocities in athletes with dilated RV or PA. However, those with elevated tricuspid regurgitation velocity had lower systolic velocities of the tricuspid annulus then the rest (S': 12.3 cm/sec vs. 15.5 cm/sec, P = 0.01).

Conclusions: RV enlargement in professional athletes is not connected with deterioration of diastolic or systolic RV function. Athletes with elevated pulmonary systolic pressure at rest, however, present with lower longitudinal systolic velocities of RV assessed using TDE.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Athletes*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Echocardiography, Doppler / methods*
  • Female
  • Heart Ventricles / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Ventricular Function, Right / physiology*