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Br J Sports Med. 2008 Apr;42(4):244-8; discussion 248-9. Epub 2007 Aug 21.

Airway inflammation in the elite athlete and type of sport.

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Hospital General Universitario de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.



The prevalence of asthma and bronchial hyper-responsiveness is greater in elite athletes than in the general population, and its association with mild airway inflammation has recently been reported.


To study the relationship between the type of sport practised at the highest levels of competition (on land or in water) and sputum induction cell counts in a group of healthy people and people with asthma.


In total, 50 athletes were enrolled. Medical history, results of methacholine challenge tests and sputum induced by hypertonic saline were analysed


Full results were available for 43 athletes, who were classified by asthma diagnosis and type of sport (land or water sports). Nineteen were healthy (10 land and 9 water athletes) and 24 had asthma (13 land and 11 water athletes). Although the eosinophil counts of healthy people and people with asthma were significantly different (mean difference 3.1%, 95% CI 0.4 to 6.2, p = 0.008), analysis of variance showed no effect on eosinophil count for either diagnosis of asthma or type of sport. However, an effect was found for neutrophil counts (analysis of variance: F = 2.87, p = 0.04). There was also a significant correlation between neutrophil counts and both duration of training and bronchial hyper-responsiveness among athletes exposed to water (Spearman's rank correlations, 0.36 and 0.47, p = 0.04 and 0.04, respectively).


Elite athletes who practice water sports have mild neutrophilic inflammation, whether or not asthma is present, related to the degree of bronchial hyper-reactivity and the duration of training in pool water.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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