Left ventricular hypertrophy due to aortic stenosis, hypertension and other forms of heart disease is associated with abnormalities of diastolic function. It is uncertain whether these changes are an inherent consequence of the hypertrophic process or represent additional pathologic factors. To investigate this issue, echocardiographic indexes of left ventricular early diastolic function in highly trained athletes were compared with those in age-matched normal control subjects. Athletes were equally classified into two groups: 11 swimmers who had a pattern of myocardial hypertrophy with normal wall thickness to dimension ratio and 11 power lifters whose wall thickness to dimension ratio was increased. The peak rates of left ventricular dimension increase and wall thinning in swimmers and power lifters were greater than in control subjects despite significantly higher left ventricular wall thickness and left ventricular mass index in the athletes. This increase in diastolic function indexes was associated with greater ventricular size and systolic performance. Normalization of the peak rate of dimension increase for end-diastolic dimension and adjustment of the peak rate of wall thinning for the fractional systolic thickening resolved any differences between groups. Thus, after the effects of ventricular size and systolic function were taken into consideration, diastolic function was normal in these subjects with considerable physiologic hypertrophy. This is in contrast to the findings in patients with hypertrophy associated with left ventricular pressure or volume overload, and suggests that abnormalities of diastolic function seen in pathologic hypertrophy are due to factors other than cardiac hypertrophy itself.