Abstract This study examined the intermittent exercise performance and cardiovascular health profile in elite female football players in comparison to untrained young women, as well as a subgroup subjected to football training 2x1 h · week(-1) for 16 weeks. Twenty-seven Danish national team players (elite trained, ET) and 28 untrained women (UT) underwent dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry-scanning (DXA), comprehensive transthoracic echocardiography, treadmill and Yo-Yo Intermittent Endurance level 2 (IE2) testing. Eight women in UT were also tested after the football training period. Maximal oxygen uptake rate (VO2max), peak ventilation and peak lactate were 40, 18 and 51% higher (P<0.01) in ET than UT, respectively. Cardiac dimensions and function were greater in ET than UT, with left ventricular diastolic diameter, right ventricular diastolic diameter, tricuspid annular plane systolic excursion (TAPSE) and peak transmitral flow in early diastole divided by peak transmitral flow velocity in late diastole during atrial contraction (E/A-ratio) being 13, 19, 27 and 41%, respectively, greater in ET than UT (P<0.001 to<0.05). Yo-Yo IE2 performance was 7-fold higher in ET than UT (1772 ± 508 vs. 234 ± 66 m, P<0.001), fat mass was 51% lower (P<0.001) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels were 20% higher (P<0.01). Sixteen weeks of football elevated VO2max and Yo-Yo IE2 performance by 16 and 40%, respectively, and lowered fat mass by 6%. Cardiac function was markedly improved by 16 weeks of football training with 26 and 46% increases in TAPSE and E/A ratio, respectively, reaching levels comparable to ET. In summary, elite female football players have a superior cardiovascular health profile and intermittent exercise performance compared to untrained controls, but short-term football training can markedly improve the cardiovascular health status.
Journal of Sports Sciences, 2013, Vol 31, Issue 13, p. 1421-1431