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Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2010 Nov 30;6(1):31. doi: 10.1186/1710-1492-6-31.

Self-reported asthma and allergies in top athletes compared to the general population - results of the German part of the GA2LEN-Olympic study 2008.

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1
Unit for Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology & NetTeaching, Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, Clinical Center of the Ludwig Maximilian University, Ziemssenstr, 1, 80336 Munich, Germany. sekretariat-radon@med.lmu.de.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Prevalence of asthma and allergies in top athletes is high. However, most previous studies did not include a general population comparison group. We aimed to compare the prevalence of asthma, allergies and medical treatment in different groups of German top athletes to the general population.

METHODS:

Prior to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, 291 German candidates for participation (65%) completed a questionnaire on respiratory and allergic symptoms. Results were compared to those of a general population study in Germany (n = 2425, response 68%). Furthermore, associations between types of sports and the self-reported outcomes were calculated. All models were adjusted for age, sex, level of education and smoking.

RESULTS:

Athletes reported significantly more doctors' diagnosed asthma (17% vs. 7%), more current use of asthma medication (10% vs. 4%) and allergic rhinitis (25% vs. 17%) compared to the general population. After adjustment, top athletes only had an increased Odds Ratio for doctor's diagnosed asthma (OR: 1.6; 95% CI 1.1-2.5). Compared to the general population, athletes in endurance sports had an increased OR for doctor's diagnosed asthma (2.4; 1.5-3.8) and current use of asthma medication (1.8; 1.0-3.4). In this group, current wheeze was increased when use of asthma medication was taken into account (1.8; 1.1-2.8). For other groups of athletes, no significantly increased ORs were observed.

CONCLUSIONS:

Compared to the general population, an increased risk of asthma diagnosis and treatment was shown for athletes involved in endurance sports. This might be due to a better medical surveillance and treatment of these athletes.

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