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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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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.



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.


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.


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.


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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