The study was led by Professor Sanjay Sharma, of St. Georges University, London where he is Professor of Cardiology. He is also a member of the ESC’s European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR), and Medical Director of the London Marathon. “Female athletes do not exhibit the same extent of cardiac adaptation as males. This is because they tend to be smaller and leaner with a lower body mass, and do not reach the same levels of exercise intensity,” he says. “Also, due to the physical differences in chest wall morphology, the typical QRS complexes of females measured on a 12-lead ECG are much less pronounced. The purpose of this study was to determine what changes do occur in elite female athletes that undertake an intensive training regime.”
The study has resulted in four findings:
-The magnitude of left ventricular wall thickness and cavity size is a function of many demographic factors including age and size, as well as the sport undertaken
This finding was confirmed in very important work¹ that was recently published which compared around 200 nationally ranked female athletes from each of these two ethnic groups. Researchers established that black females selected from across 10 sporting disciplines exhibited a greater magnitude of LVH than their white counterparts. 3% of them showed a left ventricle wall thickness of >11mm (typically 12 to 13mm) whereas none of the white athletes exceeded 11mm. 15% of black athletes demonstrated re-polarisation changes compared with just 2% of the white athletes. The study concluded that standardised criteria derived from white athletes could unfairly discriminate against black athletes by leading to unnecessary investigation or even disqualification.