Moderate physical activity has a long-term health-promoting effect on the cardiovascular system. Studies have shown that people who are active have a lower cardiovascular mortality rate and a lower risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization (WHO) therefore recommends that adults be active for at least 150 to 300 minutes a week. Children and adolescents should even do at least 60 minutes of aerobic exercise daily, plus short bursts of intense exercise.
Young competitive athletes train for an average of ten to 20 hours a week at intensities that significantly exceed the WHO recommendations. The cardiovascular system is subjected to enormous stress, and in some cases activity must be increased five or six times. This can lead to pathological changes, which in the worst case can even cause sudden cardiac death.
For this reason, the Chair of Preventive Pediatrics of Prof. Dr. Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz and the Assistant Professorship of Exercise, Nutrition and Health headed by Prof. Dr. Karsten Köhler are investigating the relationships between cardiovascular, biochemical and metabolic parameters, athletic training and the body composition of young competitive athletes in a new project. The study, entitled "Influence of vigorous activity and metabolic parameters on structure and function of the cardiovascular system in young athletes - the MuCAYA plus Study," is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) with 386,000 euros and will run for three years.
"Within the framework of the project, we want to conduct around 250 longitudinal studies of young athletes in order to also be able to investigate a progression of parameters depending on age and athletic training load," explains Dr. Hande Hofmann, Research Officer at the Department of Sport and Health Sciences. "In addition to the biochemical and metabolic parameters and the performance of the cardiovascular system, we will then also survey the nutrition of the children and adolescents."
Athletes between the ages of 7 and 18 who present for a sports medicine examination at the Chair of Preventive Pediatrics and meet certain criteria over a three-year period can participate in the study. These include participation in competitions, regular training in a major sport, membership in a club or association, and a training volume of three or more hours per week. For the recruitment of participants, there is cooperation with Bavarian competitive sports associations and clubs from the Munich area. Furthermore, there is a clinical connection to the German Heart Center Munich, which can also be used to recruit test persons.
At the beginning, each athlete undergoes a basic physical examination. In addition, the type of competitive sport, the training history and the start of exercise are asked. Later in the process, anthropometry is determined, a resting ECG, blood pressure/pulse wave analysis, sonography, echocardiography and cardiopulmonary exercise testing are performed. "We want to conduct these examinations with each athlete once a year over the course of three years," said Dr. Thorsten Schulz, Research Associate at the Chair of Preventive Pediatrics. "Through this, we want to analyze what long-term changes occur in the cardiovascular system, especially with regard to the sensitive growth age of adolescents."
The "Healthy Eating Index" will also be used to record and evaluate eating behavior and diet quality. This will help show associations between diet and certain chronic diseases. "In addition to physical activity and exercise, diet also plays an important role in blood vessel health," explains Prof. Köhler. "A special focus within the framework of MuCAYA plus is on energy metabolism, which is particularly stressed in competitive athletes due to the high energy turnover during training and competition. In particular, the effects of a chronic energy deficit on vascular parameters have not yet been studied at all, especially in adolescent competitive athletes."
The results of the three-year longitudinal study will ultimately be used to assess the response of the cardiovascular system to training stress in young athletes. "We also want to analyze whether cardiovascular parameters are relevantly elevated more often in the subjects than in children and adolescents from a norm collective," said Prof. Oberhoffer-Fritz, Dean of the Department of Sport and Health Sciences. "In addition, the history of COVID-19 infection is also collected. Again, there is no evidence yet on the impact on the cardiovascular system in athletically active adolescents."
Prof. Dr. Renate Oberhoffer-Fritz
Dean Department of Sport and Health Sciences
Chair of Preventive Pediatrics
phone: 089 289 24601
Prof. Dr. Karsten Köhler
Assistant Professorship of Exercise, Nutrition and Health
phone: 089 289 24488
Dr. Thorsten Schulz
Chair of Preventive Pediatrics
phone: 089 289 24574
Dr. Hande Hofmann
Dean's Management/Assistant Professorship of Exercise, Nutrition and Health
phone: 089 289 24489
Text: Romy Schwaiger
Photos: Chair of Preventive Pediatrics/private