Athletic heart syndrome refers to the physiological and morphological changes that occur in a human heart after repetitive strenuous physical exercise. Examples of exercise-induced changes in the heart include increases in heart cavity dimensions, augmentation of cardiac output, and increases in heart muscle mass. These cardiac adaptations vary based on the type of exercise performed and are often referred to as sport-specific cardiac remodeling. The hemodynamic effects of endurance and strength training exercise lead to these adaptations. Any abnormalities in chamber dilatation and left ventricular function usually normalize with cessation of exercise. Athletic heart syndrome is rare and should be differentiated from pathologic conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, left ventricular noncompaction, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia when assessing a patient for athletic heart syndrome. This paper describes specific adaptations that occur in athletic heart syndrome and tools to distinguish between healthy alterations versus underlying pathology.
Keywords: athletic heart syndrome; cardiac adaptations; cardiac remodeling; isometric exercise; isotonic exercise.