The hearts of competitive athletes: An up-to-date overview of exercise-induced cardiac adaptations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Intense and regular physical exercise is responsible for various cardiac changes (electrical, structural and functional) that represent physiological adaptation to exercise training. This remodeling, commonly referred to as `athlete's heart', can overlap with several pathological entities, in which sudden cardiac death may be the first clinical presentation. Although pre-competitive screening can identify athletes with life-threatening cardiovascular abnormalities, there are no widely used standardized pre-participation programs and those currently implemented are controversial. Data from personal and family history, features of physical examination and changes in the 12-lead electrocardiogram can raise the suspicion of cardiac disease and lead to early detection of entities such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. However, interpreting the electrocardiogram is often challenging, because some changes are considered physiological in athletes. Thus, clinical decision-making in such cases can prove difficult: missing a condition associated with an increased risk of life-threatening events, or conversely, mislabeling an athlete with a disease that leads to unnecessary disqualification, are both situations to avoid. This paper provides an up-to-date review of the physiological cardiac effects of exercise training and highlights key points that should be taken into consideration in the assessment of young competitive athletes. (C) 2014 Sociedade Portuguesa de Cardiologia. Published by Elsevier Espana, S.L.U. All rights reserved.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)51-64
JournalRevista Portuguesa de Cardiologia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Cardiac & Cardiovascular Systems

Cite this