Olympian’s heavy training regimes could be causing asthma

With the London Summer Olympic Games now in full swing, an Australian study has been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, investigating the impact of the training involved on the athletes and any connections to chronic lung conditions.

In a country such as Australia, whereby more than 2 million people suffer from the lung condition  asthma (about 1 in 10 adults and about 1 in 9 or 10 children),  clearly the study author based at the University of Western Australia realised it was a serious subject matter than warranted some analysis.

Sole author of the study, researcher Kenneth D. Fitch, underwent the painstaking task of pinpointing every single Olympic athlete suffering from asthma and airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR) who had competed during the previous five Olympic Games (2002 to 2010), and who had been using an inhaled beta-2 agonist (IBA) such as Ventolin Evohaler.

Hyper-responsiveness occurs usually between 15 to 30 minutes after exposure to an allergen and is the beginning stage of an asthma attack. Together, asthma and AHR are the most prevailing of chronic conditions seen in Olympians, with a prevalence rate of around 8%. Because of this, the researchers wondered if it was down to the intense, rigorous physical training the athletes undergo to get into peak condition for the events.

In both the summer and winter Olympics, it was noted there are a high number of athletes suffering from asthma and AHR in those who are involved in endurance events. These are usually aerobic sports that demand quite an extended period of output for the athlete and include events such as triathlon, decathlon, rowing, cross-country skiing, running and bicycle races. In addition, it was discovered that lung problems are quite late onset in a high number of older competitors. This led the study author to believe that the gruelling years of training have played a part.

Fitch offered his thoughts on the study he had carried out, saying, “Inhaling polluted or cold air is considered an important factor which might explain the cause in some sports, but not in all.”

Clearly with two Olympic events occurring in contrasting seasons such as the summer and winter games, Fitch then considered the prospect that the two differing temperatures, environments, etc, involved in both the training and games themselves, could affect the athletes.

He commented, “The quality of inhaled air could be harmful to the airways, but does not cause the same effect in all sports.” Fitch highlighted that the prevalence of asthma and AHR is greater in the summer Olympics in those athletes who are training for endurance events. He also said that if there are a larger total of winter athletes suffering with asthma in comparison to their summer counterparts, this could be due to the fact there are a lower number of individual medals available in the endurance events.

One interesting point touched upon in Fitch’s study, was the fact that there are a good proportion of asthmatic competitors who are routinely beating their ‘healthier’ counterparts to medals. There are currently no links to asthma inhalers being directly responsible for increased performance levels, but Fitch suggests that further studies could be done to further analyse a potential correlation. His point could be valid as the hugely successful and acclaimed Manchester United footballer Paul Scholes is a notorious asthmatic, and is regularly seen puffing on his Salbutamol inhaler on the Old Trafford pitch.

Asthma is not just a condition that affects athletes however; in the UK alone there are 5.4 million people currently receiving treatment for asthma. This equates to 1 in every 12 adults and 1 in every 11 children.

Medical Specialists Pharmacy is at hand to help you with your asthma. We have great prices on all asthma treatment, including blue reliever inhalers such as Ventolin Evohaler and Sandoz Salbutamol. These inhalers are taken immediately to relieve asthma symptoms. They quickly relax the muscles surrounding the narrowed airways. This allows the airways to open wider, making it easier to breathe again. Relievers are essential in treating asthma attacks.

We also have brown preventer inhalers such as Qvar beclometasone and Qvar Easi-Breathe, both at low prices. Brown inhalers are used for asthma prevention and should not be used to relief shortness of breath or sudden asthma attacks. These inhalers control the swelling and inflammation in the airways and reduce the risk of severe asthma attacks. The preventers need to be used daily (usually in the morning and at night) and even when you are feeling well. As the protective effect of the steroid builds up, you will be less likely to be breathless or have asthma attacks.

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