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The heart of the senior oarsman: an echocardiographic evaluation


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: August 1996 - Volume 28 - Issue 8 - p 1045-1048
Applied Sciences: Biodynamics

We evaluated left ventricular mass and function in 15 oarsmen aged 78(65-82) yr (median and range) and in 15 sedentary males aged 72 (65-81) yr by 2-D and M-mode echocardiography and cycle ergometry. The weekly time spent exercising among the oarsmen was 6 (2-18) h and two of the oarsmen were former national and international champions. The two groups of subjects had similar weight, height, and resting blood pressure. The oarsmen reached a maximal work rate of 142 (117-174) vs 113 (75-150) W for the sedentary group (P< 0.01). The internal diameters of the left ventricle were not significantly different, but the septum and posterior wall thicknesses were larger in the oarsmen (11 (8-20) vs 9 (7-11) mm, and 9 (8-13) vs 8 (7-19) mm, respectively, P < 0.023). Thus, the left ventricular mass index of the oarsmen was 19% larger (127 (101-284) vs 103 (74-134) g·m-2, P < 0.01). Also, the systolic function appeared to be superior in the oarsmen as the fractional shortening was 0.45(0.28-0.55) vs 0.36 (0.18-0.49) in the controls (P < 0.05). In conclusion, we found that long-term rowing in the senior oarsman is associated with enlarged myocardial wall thickness, a normal systolic function, and a high work capacity.

The Copenhagen Muscle Research Center, Departments of Anesthesia, Cardiology, and Clinical Physiology/Nuclear Medicine, and the Copenhagen City Heart Study, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, DENMARK

Submitted for publication April 1995.

Accepted for publication February 1996.

Address for correspondence: Finn Gustafsson, c/o Niels H. Secher, Department of Anesthesia 2034, Rigshospitalet, Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100 Copenhagen O, Denmark.

©1996The American College of Sports Medicine