Heart and Vessels

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 626–631 | Cite as

Comparison of morphological and functional adaptations of the heart in highly trained triathletes and long-distance runners using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging

  • Erik Franzen
  • Stefanie Mangold
  • Gunnar Erz
  • Claus D. Claussen
  • Andreas M. Niess
  • Ulrich Kramer
  • Christof Burgstahler
Original Article


“Athlete’s heart” is characterized by an increase in ventricular chamber sizes and myocardial mass (MM), and is mainly observed in endurance athletes. At present, it remains unclear whether cardiac adaptations in long-distance runners differ from those in triathletes. Twenty male triathletes (mean age 38.7 ± 6.2 years) and 20 male marathon runners (mean age 44.1 ± 7.9) underwent cardiac magnetic resonance imaging to calculate left and right ventricular end-diastolic volume (EDV), end-systolic volume (ESV), stroke volume (SV), ejection fraction (EF), and MM. Late-enhancement (LE) imaging was used to exclude structural alterations or myocardial scarring. EDV, ESV, SV, and EF for the left and right ventricles, as well as MM, did not differ between long-distance runners and triathletes, although the weekly training volume was significantly higher in triathletes (17.05 vs 9.95 h/week, P < 0.0001). There was a significant correlation between weekly training volume and right and left EDV, right and left ESV as well as MM within the study group. Myocardial LE was absent in all athletes. Highly trained male long-distance runners and triathletes have comparable cardiac parameters. However, the extent of physical training seems to be associated with the degree of cardiac adaptation in endurance athletes. The absence of LE supports the idea that athlete’s heart is a nonpathological adaptation of the cardiovascular system.


Athlete’s heart Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging Triathlete 



The authors would like to thank the participants for volunteering for the study. This study was supported by a Grant from the German Heart Research Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erik Franzen
    • 1
  • Stefanie Mangold
    • 2
  • Gunnar Erz
    • 1
  • Claus D. Claussen
    • 2
  • Andreas M. Niess
    • 1
  • Ulrich Kramer
    • 2
  • Christof Burgstahler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Internal Medicine V, Sports MedicineUniversity of TuebingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Diagnostic and Interventional RadiologyUniversity of TuebingenTübingenGermany

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