ISSN: 1223-1533

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Authors: Marija Zdravkovic, Mirjana Krotin, Miljko Ristic, Jovan Perunicic, Vladimir Vukomanovic, Sergej Prijic, Branislav Milovanovic, Darko Zdravkovic, Slavica Radovanovic, Jelena Saric


There is a large number of the studies on the athlete’s heart carried out on adult and older adolescent players; hence the limited data on the cardiac response to exercise in the beginning of the active sports career in the youngest athletes. The study was designed to examine the physiological limits of left ventricle (LV) cavity size and wall thickness as well as aortic root in elite footballers at the preadolescent age, it the beginning of the active sports career. Ninety-four highly trained male footballers (mean aged 12.85+/-0.84) competing in the Serbian Football League and 47 age-matched healthy male controls, aged 12-14, were enrolled in the study. All the echocardiographic findings were adjusted to BSA(-0.5), while left ventricle mass (LVM) was additionally adjusted to BSA(-1.5). Reference ranges were defined as values of 5-95th percentile according to the mean values in both groups. The proportions of the footballers with LV dimensions and aortic dimensions outside expected ranges were additionally noted. The data indicate significant increases in absolute values of LV dimensions, but especially in the dimensions of the aortic root size (p<0.001) in preadolescent professional footballers compared with the values expected for age-matched controls, whereas there are no differences in absolute values of ventricular septal and posterior wall thickness, LV wall thickness and LVM (p>0.05). However, regarding aortic root dimensions there is a significant difference even in absolute values. Upon body-size adjustments, significant increases were observed in all echocardiographic parameters (p<0.001). Our data indicate an early cardiac remodeling, already apparent in preadolescence, even after a short period of training. However, aortic root is the main cardiac segment that is being remodeled in this early life period.