Long-term follow-up of former world-class swimmers: evaluation of cardiovascular function

Christian Knackstedt*, Klaus Schmidt, Lukas Syrocki, Andreas Lang, Birna Bjarnason-Wehrens, Ursula Hildebrandt, Hans-Georg Predel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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There is some evidence that long-term high-intensity endurance training might be associated with deterioration in cardiac function and might impose a potential risk for cardiovascular events. Thus, the intention was to retrospectively evaluate the cardiac status in former endurance athletes, particularly right ventricular (RV) dimension and function, to reveal potential cardiac damage. A group of 12 former world-class swimmers (45 +/- 1.5 years) was examined 24.9 +/- 4.3 years after cessation of high-intensity endurance training. They underwent history taking, physical examination, ECG, exercise testing and echocardiography. Furthermore, functional and echocardiography data that were also available from former evaluations were included in the analysis. There was a significant decline in exercise capacity. LV function was normal with a decrease in septal thickness to 9.1 +/- 1.3 (p <0.05) and LV diastolic diameter to 48.9 +/- 5.6 (p <0.05). Still, there was a remaining septal hypertrophy. RV function was 55.3 +/- 4.2 % and there were normal RV dimensions adjusted for body surface area. 25 years after the cessation of endurance training there was a normal RV and LV function with a normalization of almost all diameters, still there was a mild LV hypertrophy in some athletes. Consequently, no relevant long-term cardiac remodeling after intensive endurance training was depicted in this group of athletes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-378
JournalHeart and Vessels
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • Elite athlete
  • Athlete's heart
  • Long-term follow-up
  • Cardiovascular function

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