Most Olympic athletes suffer from asthma

Updated: Aug 01, 2012, 14:54 PM IST

Washington: Asthma and airway hyper-responsiveness are the most common chronic conditions among Olympic athletes, and could be related to intense training, according to a study by the University of Western Australia.

The results were based on data from the last five Olympic games.

In summer and winter sports there is widespread suffering from asthma and airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR) among athletes who take part in endurance sports. Its relatively late onset in many older athletes suggests to the experts that the years of intense training could be one of the causes.

“Inhaling polluted or cold air is considered an important factor which might explain the cause in some sports, but not in all,” explained Kenneth D. Fitch, researcher at the University of Western Australia.

He identified those athletes with documented asthma and AHR from among those who during the last five Olympic games -from 2002 to 2010- used inhaled beta-2 agonists (IBA), a drug frequently used by elite athletes as an anti-asthma treatment.

The results show a prevalence of around 8 percent, which makes these chronic conditions the most common among Olympic athletes.

According to the study, if there are many more asthmatic winter athletes compared with summer athletes it is mainly because in summer competition there are less individual medals in endurance sports.

For its part, during the winter games the inhalation of cold air contributes to airway damage. It also occurs inside skating rinks, where particles in suspension from the ice resurfacing machines can cause damage.

The Australian researcher wonders whether training harder than the other competitors in order to improve results could be the reason why many athletes develop asthma and AHR during adult life.

The study was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.