Morphology of the "athlete's heart" assessed by echocardiography in 947 elite athletes representing 27 sports

Am J Cardiol. 1994 Oct 15;74(8):802-6. doi: 10.1016/0002-9149(94)90439-1.


In the present study, we used echocardiography to investigate the morphologic adaptations of the heart to athletic training in 947 elite athletes representing 27 sports who achieved national or international levels of competition. Cardiac morphology was compared for these sports, using multivariate statistical models. Left ventricular (LV) diastolic cavity dimension above normal (> 54 mm, ranging up to 66 mm) was identified in 362 (38%) of the 947 athletes. LV wall thickness above normal (> 12 mm, ranging up to 16 mm) was identified in only 16 (1.7%) of the athletes. Athletes training in the sports examined showed considerable differences with regard to cardiac dimensions. Endurance cyclists, rowers, and swimmers had the largest LV diastolic cavity dimensions and wall thickness. Athletes training in sports such as track sprinting, field weight events, and diving were at the lower end of the spectrum of cardiac adaptations to athletic training. Athletes training in sports associated with larger LV diastolic cavity dimensions also had higher values for wall thickness. Athletes training in isometric sports, such as weightlifting and wrestling, had high values for wall thickness relative to cavity dimension, but their absolute wall thickness remained within normal limits. Analysis of gender-related differences in cardiac dimensions showed that female athletes had smaller LV diastolic cavity dimension (average 2 mm) and smaller wall thickness (average 0.9 mm) than males of the same age and body size who were training in the same sport.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cardiac Volume*
  • Female
  • Heart Ventricles / anatomy & histology*
  • Heart Ventricles / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Ventricular Function