The effect of exercise training on left ventricular function in young elite athletes

Cardiovasc Ultrasound. 2011 Oct 12;9:27. doi: 10.1186/1476-7120-9-27.


Background: Regular training, in particular endurance exercise, induces structural myocardial adaptation, so-called "athlete's heart". In addition to the 2D standard echo parameters, assessment of myocardial function is currently possible by deformation parameters (strain, rotation and twist). Aim of study is to assess the role of rotation and twist parameters for better characterize the heart performance in trained elite young athletes from different kind of sports. Eventually, verify early on any possible impact due to the regular sport activity not revealed by the standard parameters.

Methods: 50 young athletes (16 cyclists, 17 soccer players, 17 basket players) regularly trained at least three times a week for at least 9 months a year and 10 young controls (mean age 18.5 ± 0.5 years) were evaluated either by to 2D echocardiography or by a Speckle Tracking (ST) multi-layer approach to calculate Left Ventricle (LV) endocardial and epicardial rotation, twist, circumferential strain (CS) and longitudinal strain (LS). Data were compared by ANOVA test.

Results: All the found values were within the normal range. Left Ventricle Diastolic Diameter (LVDD 51.7 ± 2.6 mm), Cardiac Mass index (CMi 114.5 ± 18.5 g/m²), epi-CS, epi-LS, epicardial apex rotation and the Endo/Epi twist were significantly higher only in cyclists. In all the groups, a physiological difference of the Endo/Epi basal circumferential strain and twist values have been found. A weak but not significant relationship between the Endo and twist values and LVDD (r² = 0.44, p = .005) and CMi was also reported in cyclists.

Conclusions: Progressive increase of apical LV twist may represent an important component of myocardial remodelling. This aspect is particularly evident in the young cyclists group where the CMi and the LVDD are higher. ST multilayer approach completes the LV performance evaluation in young trained athletes showing values similar to adults.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Echocardiography / methods*
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heart Ventricles / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Stroke Volume / physiology*