Study finds young athletes are slightly more likely to have enlarged heart aortas

Athletics training is associated with an increase in the athletes’ heart ventricle wall thickness and cavity size. These changes are facilitated by the growth of heart muscle cells, or myocytes, in response to an increased load on the heart from intensive physical exercise. Following episodes of ‘detraining’, the heart size returns to normal.

Two previous large studies involving athletes have shown that the thoracic aorta is also slightly increased in size; however, the significance of an enlarged aorta is unknown. Given that the aorta consists of a large amount of elastic tissue, it is possible that an enlarged aorta may represent reduced elastic properties and an inherent risk of aortic rupture. Although it might be expected that very tall athletes, such as basketball players, would have a very dilated aorta based on their size, a recent American study showed that the aortic diameter rarely exceeds 40 mm.

leica school girls brussels boys field sport st 440916.jpgd