Shames reports no relevant financial disclosures. Baggish reports he received funding from the American Heart Association, National Football Players Association and the NIH/NHLBI and receives compensation as a team cardiologist from the Boston Bruins, Harvard University, New England Patriots, New England Revolution, U.S. Olympic Committee/U.S. Olympic Training Centers, U.S. Rowing and U.S. Soccer. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
Women’s National Basketball Association athletes frequently have increased cardiac dimensions, which can be affected by body surface area and physiologic findings, researchers reported.
“Our results are consistent with previously published data that, unlike in the male athletic counterparts, increased wall thickness beyond 12 mm was uncommon in female athletes and warrants investigation for a potential underlying cardiac disorder,” Sofia Shames, MD, assistant professor of medicine and assistant director of teaching in the echocardiography laboratory at Columbia University Medical Center, and colleagues wrote in the study published in JAMA Cardiology.
WNBA cardiac screenings
Researchers analyzed echocardiographic data from 140 women (mean age, 27 years; 75% African American; mean height, 183 cm; mean body surface area, 2.02 m2) who were on active rosters for the 2017 WNBA season. Echocardiograms were performed as part of an annual cardiac screening examination that is required by the association.
Variables assessed through echocardiography included left ventricular wall thickness, LV dimensions, prevalence of LV hypertrophy, LV mass, right ventricular dimension, aortic dimensions, and left and right atrial size. The link between cardiac structure and function with body size was assessed by linear regression.
Compared with normal values according to guidelines, 42.2% of women had RV enlargement and 26% had LV enlargement.
Researchers observed a positive linear association between both LV (r = 0.48) and RV cavity sizes (r = 0.32; P for both < .001) and body surface area.
Women had a maximal LV wall thickness that ranged from 0.6 cm to 1.4 cm. There were 55.7% of women with a LV wall thickness of 1 cm or greater and 0.7% of women with a wall thickness greater than 1.3 cm.
LV hypertrophy criteria was met by 16.4% of women. In addition, 69.6% of women had eccentric LV hypertrophy, 30.4% had LV concentric hypertrophy and 19.3% had concentric remodeling.
Women had a mean aortic root diameter of 3.1 cm (95% CI, 3-3.2). Aortic enlargement was observed in 1.4% of women. In contrast, LV, RV and atrial enlargement ranged from 18% to 42%.
“The data presented here for female professional basketball players may provide a framework to help define the upper limits of athletic cardiac remodeling in this important athlete group,” Shames and colleagues wrote. “The findings provide new reference data in this athletic population and will perhaps act as a stimulus to investigate sex-specific cardiac changes in other athletic disciplines.”
Aaron L. Baggish
In a related editorial, Aaron L. Baggish, MD, director of the cardiovascular performance program and of the cardiovascular performance program fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote: “The publication of these data represents a small but important step in the ongoing journey to bring sex-specific equity to the care of the athlete and the overall stage of professional sports. Similar, larger-scale efforts across different sporting disciplines and with more racial/ethnic diversity that are tied to long-term clinical outcomes represent imperative future research priorities.”