Journalist Sophie Arie published findings in BMJ which show that many asthmatic athletes may not be using the best therapy for their condition and could be risking their long-term health. The article is published under BMJ's new Olympics portal, www.bmj.com/olympics, which will be open until the end of the Olympics and Para-Olympics and features online resources to keep doctors up-to-date with sports medicine content from across the BMJ Group.
Intense physical exertion can sometimes trigger asthma-like symptoms. Some athletes mistakenly assume that if they use asthma inhalers, such as beta-2-agonists (IBAs), their performance might improve. However, studies have produced no scientific evidence linking the use of these inhalers with improved performance. In 2001, testing revealed that some athletes were misdiagnosed with asthma, whilst other athletes suffered from the condition unknowingly.
This raised concerns regarding some athletes harming themselves by using the wrong medication, for instance, many athletes may suffer from exercise-induced asthma, which requires different control and treatment, as compared with those who suffer from full-blown asthma.
A 2011 study revealed, however, that asthmatic athletes consistently outperformed healthy athletes at every Olympic Games since 2000, which raises the question: How do they manage to perform so well, regardless of their obvious handicap?
The answer may lie in the fact that most elite asthmatic athletes have a comprehensive understanding of their condition and are able to practice optimum control whilst still training hard. For instance, Paula Radcliffe often talks about her asthma as an encouragement to others to better control their asthma and researchers agree nowadays that exercise in most asthmatics enhances lung function and improves their quality of life.
Dr Greg Whyte, the former director of research for the British Olympic Association and professor of applied sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University declares:
"The general message is that mild exercise should be recommended to asthmatics as part of their symptom management program."
Written By Petra Rattue