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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Sep 3;11(9):9082-100. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110909082.

Endurance sport and "cardiac injury": a prospective study of recreational ironman athletes.

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School of Medicine, Faculty of Health, Witten/Herdecke University, Elberfelder Str. 1, 58095 Hagen, Germany.
School of Medicine, Faculty of Health, Witten/Herdecke University, Elberfelder Str. 1, 58095 Hagen, Germany.



Participation in triathlon competitions has increased in recent years. Many studies have described left or right ventricular injury in endurance athletes. The goal of this study was to examine the right and left ventricular cardiac structures and function and dynamic cardio-pulmonary performance in a large cohort of middle- and long-distance triathletes.


87 triathletes (54 male and 33 female) were examined using spiroergometry and echocardiography. The inclusion criterion was participation in at least one middle- or long distance triathlon.


Male triathletes showed a maximum oxygen absorption of 58.1 ± 8.6 mL/min/kg (female triathletes 52.8 ± 5.7 mL/min/kg), maximum ergometer performance of 347.8 ± 49.9 W (female triathletes 264.5 ± 26.1 W). Left ventricular ejection fraction (EF) was normal (male triathletes EF: 61.9% ± 3%, female triathletes EF: 63.0% ± 2.7%) and systolic right ventricular area change fraction (RV AFC%) showed normal values (males RV AFC%: 33.5% ± 2.2%, females 32.2% ± 2.8%). Doppler indices of diastolic function were normal in both groups. With respect to the echocardiographic readings the left ventricular mass for males and females were 217.7 ± 41.6 g and 145.9 ± 31.3 g, respectively. The relative wall thickness for males was 0.50 ± 0.07, whereas it was 0.47 ± 0.09 for females. The probability of left ventricular mass >220 g increased with higher blood pressure during exercise (OR: 1.027, CI 1.002-1.052, p = 0.034) or with higher training volume (OR: 1.23, CI 1.04-1.47, p = 0.019).


Right or left ventricular dysfunction could not be found, although the maximal participation in triathlon competitions was 29 years. A left ventricular mass >220 g is more likely to occur with higher arterial pressure during exercise and with a higher training volume.

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