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Heart 'risk' from endurance exercise

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A new study has showed that athletes who take part in "extreme endurance exercise", such as marathons and alpine cycling, may suffer damage to the right ventricles of their hearts.

The results - published on 7 December by the European Heart Journal - found that while damage was normally reversed within a week, there was a risk of longer-term issues.

A team led by Dr André La Gerche, a postdoctoral research fellow at St Vincent's Hospital, University of Melbourne, Australia, carried out the research, which involved 40 elite athletes.

The athletes, who were all planning to take part in one of four endurance events, underwent MRI scans, echocardiography and blood tests at three points throughout the research.

It was found immediately after the events that athletes' hearts had changed shape compared with two/three weeks prior, with the MRI scan detecting signs of scarring.

Although the damage appeared to have reversed within a week of the event, five of them had showed evidence of more permanent damage to the right ventricle.

Dr La Gerche said: "It is most important that our findings are not over-extrapolated to infer that endurance exercise is unhealthy. Our data does not support this premise.

"Our study identifies the right ventricle as being most susceptible to exercise-induced injury and suggest that the right ventricle should be a focus of attention as we try to determine the clinical significance of these results."

Professor Sanjay Sharma of St George's University, London, said: "It is too early to say that taking part in endurance sports causes long-term damage to the right ventricle.

"But this study is an indication that it might cause a problem in some endurance athletes with a predisposition and, therefore, should be studied further."

Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Further long term research will be necessary in order to determine if extreme endurance exercise can cause damage to the right ventricle of the heart in some athletes."

Details: www.oxfordjournals.org

Image: PeterMooij/shutterstock.com

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A new study has showed that athletes who take part in "extreme endurance exercise", such as marathons and alpine cycling, may suffer damage to the right ventricles of their hearts.
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