Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study was to determine how many US Olympic athletes who were chosen to participate in the 1996 summer games had a past history of asthma or symptoms that suggested asthma.
All athletes who represented the United States in the 1996 summer Olympic Games in Atlanta were required to complete a medical history questionnaire that was designed by the US Olympics Committee. All US athletes completed and signed the questionnaire. There were 60 questions, most allowing for a yes or no response. Sixteen of the 60 questions asked were about allergic and respiratory disease and were similar to questions asked of athletes who participated in the 1984 summer Olympic games. All medical history questionnaires were sent to the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the information related to allergic and respiratory disease was transcribed onto SymptomScoreCardII diary cards.
Of the 699 athletes who completed the questionnaires, 107 or 15% had a previous diagnosis of asthma and an additional 97 recorded use of an asthma medication at some time in the past. One hundred seventeen (16.7%) reported use of an asthma medication, the diagnosis of asthma, or both which was the basis for the diagnosis of asthma. A total of 10.4% of the athletes were currently taking an asthma medication at the time they were processed in Atlanta or noted that they took asthma medications on a permanent or semipermanent basis and were considered to have active asthma. Frequency of active asthma varied from 45% of cyclists and mountain bikers to none of the divers and weight lifters. Only about 11% of the athletes who participated in the 1984 summer Olympic games had a diagnosis of asthma.
Asthma appeared to have been more prevalent in athletes who participated in the 1996 summer games than in the general population or in those who participated in the 1984 summer games.
This is a very cogent article that highlights the issue of exercise-induced asthma. It is common knowledge that many famous US Olympic athletes and professional sports participants have asthma. However, this article tries to get at the heart of the prevalence of this condition in participants in the US Olympic Games. There is a very nice discussion about the difference in the prevalence of asthma in different sports. Also there is a discussion on the medications that were being used by the athletes. It was fascinating that approximately one third of them were using inhaled corticosteroids on a regular basis, demonstrating the extent of the underlying asthma.