Echocardiographic findings in endurance athletes with hypertrophic non-obstructive cardiomyopathy (HNCM) compared to non-athletes with HNCM and to physiological hypertrophy (athlete's heart)

Int J Sports Med. 1994 Jul;15(5):273-7. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-1021059.


Hypertrophic non-obstructive cardiomyopathy (HNCM) is one of the most frequent causes of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. Since the clinical findings in HNCM patients may be inconspicuous and the ECG changes found in endurance athletes may be similar to those of HNCM patients, echocardiography, as a non-invasive procedure, seems to take on an important role in differential diagnostics. To prove this hypothesis, conventional echocardiographic parameters were compared in three groups with confirmed diagnosis: Group I: HNCM (n = 9) without sports activity; Group II: HNCM (n = 9) with regular, intensive endurance training (3-5 hours/week). The diagnosis was invasively confirmed in both groups. Group III: healthy subjects (n = 9) with physiological hypertrophy and regular endurance training (3-6 hours/week). In the presence of HNCM, endurance sports activity appears to offset the reduction in the left ventricle and enlargement of the left atrium. The wall thickness of the septum and posterior wall do not differ in the two HNCM groups, but show a significant difference to the healthy athletes. The enddiastolic diameter, the absolute septum and posterior wall thickness and the ratio of septum+posterior wall/enddiastolic diameter can be taken as the most important differential diagnostic criterium in physiological hypertrophy, but not the ratio between septum/posterior wall. It is concluded that conventional echocardiographic examination can be considered a valuable non-invasive method for differentiating HNCM from athlete's heart, even in patients with HNCM who participate in endurance sports. However, a reliable diagnosis may not be possible in individual cases.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cardiomegaly / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cardiomegaly / physiopathology
  • Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cardiomyopathy, Hypertrophic / physiopathology
  • Echocardiography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Sports / physiology*