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Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00153

Influence of football on physiological cardiac indexes in professional and young athletes.

Cristian V. Francavilla1,  Francesco Sessa2, Monica Salerno2, Davide G. Albano2, Ines Villano3,  Giovanni Messina2, Fabio Troilo4, Lorenzo Todaro5, Maria Ruberto6, Gabriella Marsala7, Orazio Cascio8,  Maria Pina Mollica3,  Vincenzo Monda3, Giuseppe Cibelli2,  Anna Valenzano2, Christian Zammit9, Marcellino Monda3 and Antonietta Messina3*
  • 1Kore University of Enna, Italy
  • 2Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Foggia, Italy
  • 3University of Naples Federico II, Italy
  • 4Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Policlinico 'Paolo Giaccone' di Palermo, Italy
  • 5Unione Sportiva Città di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, Italy
  • 6Santa Maria del Pozzo, Italy
  • 7Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria Ospedali Riuniti di Foggia, Italy
  • 8Università degli Studi di Catania, Italy
  • 9University of Malta, Malta

Background: After long-term intensive training, considerable morphological and functional heart changes occur in professional athletes. Such changes arise progressively and regress upon interruption of the physical activity. Morphological and functional alterations on heart are known as “Athlete’s heart” condition.
Objective: This study aims to compare echocardiographic parameters in two different groups of professional athletes. Furthermore, a prospective study is performed analyzing the echocardiographic changes occurring in 12 professional players in three years of follow-up.
Materials and methods: 78 football players were examined from July 2011 to May 2016 (40 enrolled in Group A and 38 in Group B). 12 players of GROUP A were followed for 3 consecutive seasons. The general clinical examination, the cardiopulmonary evaluation, the ECG, the ergometer stress test, the spirometric examination and the standard cardiac eco color doppler test were recorded.
Results: Left ventricle dimensions, left atrium dimensions, and interventricular septum dimensions were higher in A players than in B players. Moreover, following up 12 players for three years, a statistically significant increase of such values was observed.
Discussion: In A players, higher dimensions of the left chambers and the interventricular septum were observed, compared to B players. No statistically significant difference was found regarding the ejection fraction. The three years follow-up showed a statistically significant increase of both left chambers and interventricular septum dimensions, particularly in the second and third year.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrated that A players have higher echocardiographic parameters respect to B players. The results of this study support the scientific theory that long-term intensive training influences heart function, inducing “athlete’s heart” with morphological adaptations. No significant echocardiographic variation within the examined sample was observed for different roles (goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, or attacker) or skills of individual players.

Keywords: Professional football player, Echocardiographic parameters, heart adaptation to exercise, Left ventricle dimensions, athlete’s heart

Received: 22 Dec 2017; Accepted: 14 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Rosalba Parenti, University of Catania, Italy

Reviewed by:

Mariateresa Giuliano, Università degli Studi della Campania "Luigi Vanvitelli" Caserta, Italy
Elvira Moscarella, Università degli Studi della Campania L. Vanvitelli Naples, Italy  

Copyright: © 2018 Francavilla, Sessa, Salerno, Albano, Villano, Messina, Troilo, Todaro, Ruberto, Marsala, Cascio, Mollica, Monda, Cibelli, Valenzano, Zammit, Monda and Messina. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: MD, PhD. Antonietta Messina, University of Naples Federico II, Napoli, Italy,