Athletes and the Aorta: Normal Adaptations and the Diagnosis and Management of Pathology

Opinion statement

Over a hundred years ago, physicians first recognized that participation in regular, vigorous training resulted in enlargement of the heart. Since that time, the term “athlete’s heart” has entered the medical lexicon as a global expression encompassing the electrical, functional, and morphological adaptations that develop in response to physical training. Exercise-induced adaptations of the aorta, which is also exposed to large hemodynamic stresses during prolonged endurance exercise or resistance training, are less well recognized. Young athletes tend to have slightly larger aortas than their sedentary counterparts; however, this rarely exceeds normal ranges for the general population. A systematic approach is advised when presented with an athlete with aortic enlargement. The size of the aorta needs to be first put in the context of the athlete’s age, sex, size, and sporting endeavors; however, even in the largest young athletes, the aortic root rarely exceeds 4 cm in men or 3.4 cm in women. A comprehensive evaluation is advised which includes a detailed family history and a thorough physical examination evaluating for signs of any defined connective tissue disorder associated with aortopathy. Downstream testing is then tailored for the individual and may include further tomographic imaging, opthalmology review, and genetic testing. This should ideally be performed at a specialist center. Management of athletes with an aortopathy includes tailoring athletic activity, medical management with strict impulse control, and, in some cases, prophylactic surgery. The issue of sporting eligibility should be individualized and if disqualification is necessary, this should be undertaken by a sports cardiologist or an expert in aortic disease with experience in dealing with an athletic population.


Sports cardiology Aorta Athletes Athlete’s heart 

Autor / Fonte:J Stephen Hedley, Dermot Phelan Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine 2017 October 9, 19 (11): 88