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J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2015 Feb;28(2):236-44. doi: 10.1016/j.echo.2014.09.013. Epub 2014 Oct 18.

Patterns of left ventricular diastolic function in Olympic athletes.

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Institute of Sports Medicine and Science, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:
Institute of Sports Medicine and Science, Rome, Italy.
Cardiovascular Imaging and Hemodynamic Laboratory, Tufts University Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.



Whether morphologic left ventricular (LV) changes in elite athletes are associated with altered diastolic properties is undefined. The aim of this study was to investigate LV diastolic properties in a large population of Olympic athletes compared to untrained controls.


A total of 1,145 Olympic athletes (61% men), and 154 controls, free of cardiovascular disease, underwent two-dimensional echocardiography, Doppler echocardiography, and Doppler tissue imaging.


Athletes had similar E velocities (87 ± 15 vs 89 ± 16 cm/sec, P = .134) but significantly decreased A velocities (47 ± 10 vs 56 ± 12 cm/sec, P < .001) compared with controls, with increased E/A ratios (1.93 ± 0.50 vs 1.63 ± 0.35, P < .001) and values ranging up to 4.8. Isovolumic relaxation (83 ± 13 vs 71 ± 16 msec, P < .001) and deceleration times (203 ± 40 vs 181 ± 36 msec, P < .001) were longer in athletes compared with controls. Doppler tissue imaging e' (13.8 ± 2.2 vs 16.2 ± 3.7 cm/sec, P < .001) and a' (7.2 ± 1.8 vs 8.5 ± 2.1 cm/sec, P < .001) were lower in athletes than in controls, but their ratio was not different between groups; E/e' ratios (6.37 ± 1.2 vs 5.72 ± 1.33, P < .001) were mildly higher in athletes. Subgroup analysis for type of sport showed that endurance athletes had the lowest A and a' velocities and the largest E/A ratios. Gender analysis revealed that men had significantly lower E and A velocities, as well as e', e'/a' ratios, and E/e' ratios (P < .01), compared with women.


This study provides normal values for Doppler echocardiographic and Doppler tissue imaging parameters describing diastolic function in elite athletes, which may be implemented as reference values in the clinical assessment of athlete's heart and prove useful in understanding the physiologic limits of cardiac adaptations in athletes.


Athletes; Diastolic function; Doppler; Echocardiography; LV hypertrophy

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