Another measure that can be similar with athletes and unhealthy patients is heart size and thickness. In a failing heart you see enlargement - lengthened muscles contract stronger so it is an attempt to preserve cardiac stroke volume. Of course athletes hearts enlarge to pump more blood where it is needed also.
This article from back in 1991 in the New England Journal of Medicine sought to use imaging to separate the fit from the sick heart. They looked at 947 elite athletes from various sports looking at the thickness of the left ventrical wall. When it is greater than 13 mm it is considered to be a diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Interestingly, only 16 of 947 athletes would have been seen as over 13 mm - 15 of them ROWERS or CANOEISTS.
If you are a highly trained rower and you have to see the cardiologist this is worth knowing. For most of us it is just an interesting bit of trivia...I suppose it is true that rowing takes heart!
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