Many British swimmers and some boxers won medals and achieved personal best performances at the Rio Olympic Games despite asthma related breathing issues.
Researchers from the School of Sport and Exercise Science (SSES) investigated elite British athletes from both swimming and boxing and their research suggests asthma related breathing problems should not be a barrier to sporting success, as long as they are well managed and controlled.
Team GB swimmers at the Rio Olympics were nine times more likely to have asthma related breathing problems than boxers, the research, published in the journal Respirology, found.
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is highly prevalent in certain groups of elite athletes. To compare athletes from two different sports, Irisz Karolina Levai, MD and her colleagues in SSES performed breathing assessments on members of the elite GB boxing and swimming squads.
Both sports require increased heart rates and respiration; however, both the training environment and the duration that athletes are exposed to these demands differ significantly.
The findings uncovered airway dysfunction in a high proportion of elite swimmers, likely due to a combination of environmental exposures such as swimming pool chemicals coupled with repeatedly high respiratory requirements of an elite swimming.
The Kent findings suggest optimising airway health for swimmers may lead to improved performance in the pool. The findings also suggest that asthma should not be a barrier to taking part in swimming. In fact, recreational swimming can enhance asthma control whilst improving cardio-vascular fitness.
Respirology article: "Environmental influence on the prevalence and pattern of airway dysfunction in elite athletes." Irisz Karolina Levai, James H. Hull, Mike Loosemore, Jon Greenwell, Greg Whyte, and John W. Dickinson.
For further information or interview requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office.
Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879
News releases can also be found at http://www.kent.ac.uk/news
University of Kent on Twitter: http://twitter.com/UniKent
Notes to editors
Established in 1965, the University of Kent – the UK's European university – now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.
The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.
In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.