The heart of the endurance athlete assessed by echocardiography and its modalities: "embracing the delicate balance"

Curr Cardiol Rep. 2013 Aug;15(8):383. doi: 10.1007/s11886-013-0383-1.


"To go too far is as bad as to fall short."Confucius (BC 551-BC 479) Chinese philosopher Echocardiography has contributed most to our current understanding and indeed our current dilemma regarding the heart of the endurance athlete. Echocardiography assesses and characterizes nicely the effects of Endurance exercise training. It allows us to assess both systolic and diastolic cardiac variables as they change with structure and function associated with intense sporting activity. Much research work using echocardiography has characterized the left and right ventricle of the endurance athlete over the last year. Indeed evidence suggests that intense prolonged exercise may result in myocardial dysfunction which predominantly affects the RV, and that chronic RV remodelling may represent a substrate for ventricular arrhythmias in athletes. This has been the source of many debates and articles over the last 12 months. The reasons underlying the predilection towards RV dysfunction with intense prolonged exercise and the variation between individuals in its occurrence are still under dispute. This article seeks to describe the recent literature over the last year which outlines the different areas research has focused on when we assess the heart of the endurance athletes using echocardiography. Ultimately the goal of all research on the heart of the endurance athletes is to search for the holy grail of when enough is enough and therefore recognize and embrace the delicate balance of endurance intensity, in other words the border line when endurance exercise is no longer beneficial but slumps and slides into the realms of induced cardiac pathology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise / physiology
  • Heart Ventricles / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology
  • Ventricular Function, Right / physiology
  • Ventricular Remodeling / physiology