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Asthma Health Center

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Asthma Common in College Athletes?

Exercise-Induced Asthma Seen in 42 of 107 College Athletes Studied; Many Had No Asthma History
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 7, 2007 -- Many college athletes may have exercise-induced asthma and not know it, a new study shows.

In exercise-induced asthma, the airways narrow during or shortly after exercise.

The new study on exercise-induced asthma included 107 varsity athletes at Ohio State University. Their sports include basketball, football, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, tennis, volleyball, and wrestling.

The male and female athletes reported any history of asthma symptoms. They also took lung function tests, including a test that's recommended to screen Olympic athletes for exercise-induced asthma.

The results showed that 47 athletes -- 39% -- had exercise-induced asthma. Most of those athletes -- 86% -- didn't know they had exercise-induced asthma and had no prior history of asthma.

The athletes' sex or sport didn’t affect the findings, report Ohio State University's Jonathan Parsons, MD, and colleagues.

Parsons' team notes that exercise-induced asthma affects most asthma patients and is more common in elite athletes than in the general public.

The researchers call for more studies to learn which athletes should be screened for exercise-induced asthma.

"One important finding of the study is that a history of symptoms with exercise is not enough to make a correct diagnosis," Parsons states in a news release.

"Diagnosis and treatment of exercise-induced asthma based solely upon subjective symptoms could increase the number of inaccurate diagnoses and expose people to unnecessary medications," he adds. "Objective confirmation of suspected exercise-induced asthma with appropriate testing is absolutely critical."

The findings, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, may not apply to all college athletes.

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