Aims: In individuals who exercise regularly and for extended periods of time, some structural alterations in the heart, called the athlete's heart, develop in time. These alterations vary in type, can be eccentric or concentric, depending on the nature of exercise. Speckle tracking echocardiography (STE) is a novel, angle-independent method that accurately and reliably measures systolic and diastolic functions of the left ventricle (LV) with considerably lower inter-operator variability.
Methods and results: Twenty-two marathon runners, 24 wrestlers, and 20 healthy sedentary individuals were included in the study. The average age of subjects is 17.5 ± 2.2 in marathon runners, 16.8 ± 1.9 in wrestlers, and 16.4 ± 1.8 in control group. The parameters of LV longitudinal strain (S), LV longitudinal strain rate systolic (SRS), LV longitudinal strain rate diastolic early filling (SRE), and longitudinal strain rate diastolic late filling (SRA) were evaluated by apical two-, three-, and four-chamber grayscale imaging using the global longitudinal strain (GLS) and GLS rate (GLSR). Conventional echocardiographic parameters demonstrated increased LV diameters and wall thickness in the marathon runners and increased wall thickness without increased LV diameters in the wrestlers. Systolic and diastolic functions were comparable between the marathon runners and wrestlers with conventional echocardiography. Analysis with STE, however, yielded higher systolic strain and strain rates in the athletes. Normalized GLS parameters and end-diastolic volume (EDV) were shown to be correlated.
Conclusion: Overall, conventional echocardiography can detect some differences between young athletes with eccentric and concentric type of athlete's heart but it is incapable of revealing differences in intrinsic myocardial functions. However, analysis using STE demonstrated increased systolic functions in athletes commensurate with increased load, with unaltered diastolic functions.
Keywords: athlete's heart; hypertrophy; tissue and strain Doppler echocardiography.
© 2013, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.