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Comparative Study
, 90 (2), 145-8

Left Ventricular Wall Thickening Does Occur in Elite Power Athletes With or Without Anabolic Steroid Use

Comparative Study

Left Ventricular Wall Thickening Does Occur in Elite Power Athletes With or Without Anabolic Steroid Use

R D Dickerman et al. Cardiology.


Reports on the occurrence of left ventricular wall thickening in resistance-trained athletes have rejected the possibility for this physiological adaptation to occur without concomitant anabolic steroid abuse. Others have concluded short bursts of arterial hypertension that occur with maximal weight lifting are not sufficient to induce left ventricular wall thickening, and left ventricular wall thickness >/=13 mm should not be found in pure resistance-trained athletes. Therefore, we examined 4 elite resistance-trained athletes by two-dimensional echocardiography. In addition, we retrospectively examined the individual left ventricular dimensions of 13 bodybuilders from our previous echocardiographic studies. All 4 elite resistance-trained athletes had left ventricular wall thicknesses beyond 13 mm. One of the elite bodybuilders has the largest left ventricular wall thickness (16 mm) ever reported in a power athlete. Retrospectively, 43% of the drug-free bodybuilders and 100% of the steroid users had left ventricular wall thickness beyond the normal range of 11 mm. In addition, 1 drug-free subject and 3 steroid users were beyond the critical mark of 13 mm. No subjects demonstrated diastolic dysfunction. In contrast to previous reports, we have demonstrated that left ventricular wall thicknesses >/=13 mm can be found routinely in elite resistance-trained athletes. The use of anabolic steroids concomitant with intensive resistance exercise does appear to augment left ventricular size without dysfunction. Anabolic steroids may accelerate left ventricular wall thickening indirectly by increasing strength, thus augmenting the pressor response.

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