The "Extreme Exercise Hypothesis" states that when individuals perform training beyond the ideal exercise dose, a decline in the beneficial effects of physical activity occurs. This is due to significant changes in myocardial structure and function, such as hemodynamic alterations, cardiac chamber enlargement and hypertrophy, myocardial inflammation, oxidative stress, fibrosis, and conduction changes. In addition, an increased amount of circulating biomarkers of exercise-induced damage has been reported. Although these changes are often reversible, long-lasting cardiac damage may develop after years of intense physical exercise. Since several features of the athlete's heart overlap with arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy (ACM), the syndrome of "exercise-induced ACM" has been postulated. Thus, the distinction between ACM and the athlete's heart may be challenging. Recently, an autoimmune mechanism has been discovered in ACM patients linked to their characteristic junctional impairment. Since cardiac junctions are similarly impaired by intense physical activity due to the strong myocardial stretching, we propose in the present work the novel hypothesis of an autoimmune response in endurance athletes. This investigation may deepen the knowledge about the pathological remodeling and relative activated mechanisms induced by intense endurance exercise, potentially improving the early recognition of whom is actually at risk.
Cardiac Biomarkers and Autoantibodies in Endurance Athletes: Potential Similarities with Arrhythmogenic Cardiomyopathy Pathogenic Mechanisms. Stadiotti I, Lippi M, Maione AS, Compagnucci P, Andreini D, Casella M, Pompilio G, Sommariva E. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jun 17;22(12):6500. doi: 10.3390/ijms22126500