Researchers have found the first evidence that some athletes who take part in extreme endurance exercise such as marathons, endurance triathlons, alpine cycling or ultra triathlons may incur damage to the right ventricles of their hearts.
The research, published in the European Heart Journal found that although the damage was reversed within a week of a competitive event in most of the 40 athletes studied, five of them showed evidence of more permanent damage, with magnetic resonance imaging showing scarring of the heart muscle.
These five had been competing in endurance sports for longer than those who did not show the same damage.
Researcher, Dr André La Gerche said: “It is most important that our findings are not over-extrapolated to infer that endurance exercise is unhealthy. Our data does not support this premise.”
However, he said that the findings did suggest that there might be some athletes who might have been born with a susceptibility to develop damage as a result of long-term endurance exercise.