A pan-European study will examine the prevalence of asthma among European athletes set to take part in the Beijing Olympics and assess the impact of the local environment and air quality on the disease.
GA²LEN, an EU research consortium on allergic diseases, announced on World Asthma Day (6 May) that it will follow the athletes selected for the Beijing Olympic Games to assess the prevalence of asthma and allergies among top athletes in summer sports. Earlier studies show that some 20% of summer sport athletes have asthma.
Runners, swimmers, and cyclists in particular have shown high susceptibility up to now. According to GA²LEN, these endurance sports could produce higher levels of asthma in China “due to the prolonged periods with highly increased ventilation and the duration of high level physical activity” together with environmental factors, such as chlorine in swimming water or polluted air for cyclists and runners.
The study is the first of its kind in Europe and has been designed in agreement with the Norwegian National Olympic Committee to follow athletes and provide optimal care if needed. The scientists also expect to learn more about the effects of air quality and pollution on the athletes and better understand exercise-induced asthma.
Around 2,000 athletes will be followed before, during and after the Olympics with regular clinical examinations measuring the functioning of their lungs, bronchial responsiveness and asthma symptoms. Researchers hope that clinical follow-ups will also assess the impact of the local environment on potential symptoms.