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Triathlete With Enlarged Heart – Abnormal?

Triathlete with Enlarged Heart – Abnormal?

“The heart is the first feature of working minds.”
                                                                       Frank Lloyd Wright
We see frequent headlines noting the very premature death of young athletes with pathologic cardiac conditions, the so-called enlarged heart also known as hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathy. It’s been proposed that athletes participating in multiple endurance events like iron distance racing or a high number of marathons induce subtle changes, which, over time, can lead to significant changes in cardiac function. Negative changes!
To answer this question, researchers tested Olympic level athletes using EKGs, echocardiograms, etc., over a 9 year period and found little correlation to the extremes of training intensities/volumes to any cardiac difficulties.
In the article by Levine, et al, they summarize these findings stating, “…the report goes a long way to reassure the medical community of the inherently physiologic and clinically benign nature of prolonged and intense endurance training.”

So, when we see high profile athletes like Ironman Hawaii Champion Greg Welch with well publicized heart problems, don’t blame the training per se but look for a different explanation. Keep up your own training. But/if you have anything like chest pain, jaw pain, etc., don’t just blow it off, ask someone who knows. Better safe than sorry.
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