Back to school means back to sports. If your child is having breathing problems while on the field or court, don't assume they're okay because they don't have asthma. A new study finds something else may be to blame.

Charlie Billingsley has been playing lacrosse for ten years. Now a senior on his college team, his pre-game warm-up includes taking a deep breath. Charlie has exercise induced bronchospasm, or EIB. It's a breathing problem that happens when he plays sports.

"When I'm running, I'd get tired and my chest would feel tight and sometimes I'd wheeze," says Billingsley.

You might expect it to happen to people with asthma. But according to a recent study at Ohio State University Medical Center, many people with no history of asthma suffer from the problem too. Jonathan Parsons, MD, found that two out of five college athletes have EIB. Of those diagnosed, 86% had no prior history.

"What that implies to us is that there's likely a large proportion of athletes, both competitive and recreational, who are experiencing exercise-induced bronchospasm, but they're unrecognized," says Parsons. Whether you're an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, the symptoms of EIB include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing or fatigue. Charlie got tested by Dr. Parsons and, thanks to his inhaler, he's now able to play his 'A' game the entire game.

"As opposed to getting tired or feeling a little bit more fatigued, I just feel like I can run at my pace and speed for a whole game," says Billingsley.

Dr. Parsons says EIB is even more prevalent in those who play winter sports where the air is humid like ice hockey, figure skating and swimming. This study is published in the September issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Medicine.

Ohio State University