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J Asthma. 2013 May;50(4):403-9. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2013.776075. Epub 2013 Apr 8.

Are former athletes more prone to asthma?

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Centre of Research, Education, Innovation and Intervention in Sport, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.



We have designed the present study to compare prevalent lifetime cases of diagnosed asthma or exercise-induced asthma, as well as current related respiratory symptoms, across two different levels of former athletes and non-athletes.


Demographic, behavioral, and asthma history information, as well as current related respiratory symptoms, were obtained through a questionnaire from 627 subjects (290 former elite and 201 non-elite athletes that competed between 1969 and 2005, and 136 control subjects that had never been athletes).


Non-athletes presented a higher percentage of subjects reporting the existence of symptoms associated with exercise or vigorous activities. Former athletes who reported having practiced mostly in indoor facilities presented significant lower risk for asthma than outdoor athletes (Odds Ratio = 0.48, 95% CI = 0.25-0.94). Multiple regression analysis (where "B" refers to unstandardized coefficients) showed that former elite (B = -0.85, p < .001) and non-elite athletes (B = -0.70, p < .001) were less prone to be affected by asthma-related symptoms than non-athletes. Athletes with careers that lasted more than 20 years were more likely to possess asthma-related symptoms than the ones with shorter careers (3-7 years, B = -0.47, p < .001; 8-14 years, B = -0.42, p < .01; 15-20, B = -0.32, p < .05).


Non-athletes seem to have a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms. Among former athletes, career characteristics seem to play a crucial role, with special emphasis to its duration, where the most lengthy seem to be more associated with respiratory symptoms.

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