We kinetically measured total lactate dehydrogenase (LD, EC 126.96.36.199), total creatine kinase (CK, EC 188.8.131.52), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST, EC 184.108.40.206) in 16 elite college basketball players, before the competition season and not in close temporal relation to near-maximal exercise, and in 17 healthy non-athlete controls. LD isoenzymes were determined by both electrophoretic and immunoprecipitation methods. CK-MB isoenzyme was measured electrophoretically. We found significantly higher mean LD-1 values and LD-1/LD-2 ratios in the players than the controls: 31.6 (SD 3.7)% vs 25.8 (SD 3.2)% (P < 0.005) and 1.1 (SD 0.13) vs 0.87 (SD 0.16) (P < 0.001), respectively. A 'flipped' LD pattern (LD-1 > LD-2) was found in half the players and in six of the eight black athletes, but in only two of the control group and in none of the black controls. Mean CK activity in serum exceeded normal values in the serum of the athletes and was higher in comparison with the control group [274 (SD 156) vs 103 (SD 82) U/L]. Mean CK was significantly higher in the eight athletes with the flipped LD pattern than in those with LD-1 < LD-2 [322 (SD 163) vs 180 (SD 98) U/L; P = 0.05], and also in comparison with CK in the two controls with flipped LD pattern. We saw no significant difference in mean CK between the nine players with normal immunochemical LD-1/LD ratios and the seven players with above-normal ratios. CK-MB was not detected in either athletes or controls. None of the players had any clinical or electrocardiographic evidence for myocardial ischemia or infarction. Evidently the flipped LD pattern usually found in patients with acute myocardial infarction and reported in some athletes after extreme exercise such as ultra-marathon running may also be found in athletes who are in their 'basal fitness shape' but who are not involved in competitive physical activity.