Echo Research and Practice: Echocardiography in sports cardiology collection

Published 11/10/2023

Professor David Oxborough, Professor of Echocardiography and Cardiovascular Physiology at Liverpool John Moores University and Guest Editor, shares his thoughts on this special edition of Echo Research and Practice.

Structured exercise is integral to our well-being with regular physical activity being recommended across the ages to improve health and reduce cardiovascular risk. The acute and chronic effects of exercise on the heart have interested academics, sports participants and practitioners for many years and as such the field of sports cardiology has developed significantly. This growing specialism has been fuelled by our physiological understanding of exercise-induced cardiac adaptation alongside the important ability to differentiate adaptation from disease. Echocardiography plays a crucial role in this and is recommended at pre-participation screening, secondary care and monitoring and surveillance as well as being integrated into laboratory and field-based research studies.

The Echocardiography in Sports Cardiology collection has been produced using empirical data and review articles from world leading experts in the field. We present lab-based research studies aimed at establishing associations between ventricular-arterial interactions and cardio-respiratory fitness and the assessment of exercise induced right ventricular dysfunction during and following 6-hours of prolonged strenuous cycling exercise. Other observational studies demonstrate the challenges associated with interpretation of chamber structure and function in athletes with a bicuspid aortic valve and aortic regurgitation, issues related to scaling of left ventricular mass and the impact of image and performance enhancing drugs on atrial structure and function. We are also pleased to present new data on right ventricular structure and function in a large cohort of adolescent footballers. These high-quality primary research studies are supported by review articles highlighting the importance of the echocardiographic assessment of coronary artery anomalies in young athletes and a comprehensive insight into the current multi-factorial nature of the athlete's heart. Overall, this special edition illuminates the field of sports cardiology and highlights the important role of echocardiography.

Our first three articles from this collection provide the perfect starting point for this production, with the all-important overarching review of echocardiography in the athlete’s heart. We follow with two novel empirical studies. Forsythe et al. present seasonal changes in the Rugby Football League athlete’s heart, demonstrating the variable nature of left ventricular twist mechanics during periods of higher training loads whilst Kandels et al. demonstrate the unique association between myocardial work and VO2 max in handball and football players. Both of these studies contribute significantly to our understanding of myocardial mechanics, the athlete's heart and cardio-respiratory performance.

We would like to thank all the contributing authors as well the administration, editorial and peer review support. With further papers to be published in this collection over the coming months, we hope you enjoy this special edition.

View the collection in Echo Research and Practice