It is known that the heart of an athlete has been physiologically adapted by prolonged training. There are a large number of echocardiographic studies which have focused on left ventricular wall thickness and dilatation, but there are few studies concerning right heart function in the athlete's heart. The aim of this study was to assess right heart function in elite athletes by conventional and new echocardiographic methods. The study population consisted of 36 elite highly-trained male athletes and 16 age-matched healthy sedentary controls. Right atrial, right ventricular, and inferior vena cava dimensions, and pulsed Doppler measurements of tricuspid inflow and right ventricular outflow were obtained, and systolic (preejection period, ejection time, preejection time/ejection time, QV peak, isovolumic contraction time) and diastolic (E peak, A peak, E/A ratio, decelaration time, isovolumic relexation time) function parameters were measured. The myocardial performance index was calculated as (isovolumetric contraction time + isovolumetric relaxation time)/ejection time. In addition, right ventricular systolic and diastolic functions were determined by Pulsed wave tissue Doppler imaging (S, E, and A velocities) at the lateral corners of the tricuspid annulus. The left ventricular mass index (P < 0.005), and right atrial (P < 0.001), right ventricular (P < 0.001), and inferior vena cava dimensions (P < 0.001) were significantly greater in athletes than in controls. Tricuspid E peak, A peak, E/A ratio, deceleration time, isovolumic relaxation time, preejection period, right ventricular ejection time, preejection time/ejection time, isovolumic contraction time, QV peak, and myocardial performance index were found to be similar in athletes and in controls (P > 0.05). Systolic, early diastolic, and late diastolic tissue Doppler imaging velocities were not significantly different in athletes and controls (P > 0.05). Left ventricular hypertrophy (LV mass index > 134 g/m(2)) was found in 15 of the athletes. Right atrial dimension was greater in the athletes with left ventricular hypertrophy than in those without hypertrophy (P < 0.05). All right ventricular systolic and diastolic echocardiographic parameters were similar in athletes with and without left ventricular hypertrophy (P > 0.05). The results of this study indicate that right ventricular systolic and diastolic functions do not deteriorate in the athlete's heart despite significant chamber dilatation. They suggest that these changes are a normal physiologic adaptation to prolonged training.