- Leuppi JD,
- Kuhn M,
- Comminot C,
- Reinhart WH
Purpose of the Study
To determine if ice hockey players are at increased risk for asthma or exercise-induced asthma because they exercise or play intensively in cold air.
Twenty-six ice hockey players and 24 floor ball players were invited to participate in the study.
All subjects were instructed to avoid any medications, including antiasthma drugs, for at least 48 hours before the study. All players were asked to complete a 22-item questionnaire, on their personal history of allergy and smoking habits to identify subjects with a history of asthma or atopic diseases. Spirometry was obtained and bronchial hyperresponsiveness was assessed with a methacholine challenge test. An exercise challenge was done using an 8-minute standardized free-running or free-skating test. Asthma was defined as bronchial hyperresponsiveness plus positive answers to the two cardinal questions of the questionnaire—“Have you ever had asthma?” and “Was this confirmed by your doctor?”
No significant difference in prevalence of atopy was measured by the questionnaire. No significant differences were observed in spirometry between the 2 groups. Ice hockey players had an increased bronchial hyperresponsiveness compared with the floor ball players and the general Swiss population (data derived from the SAPALDIA study), and 34.6% (9 of 26) of ice hockey players and 20.8% (5 of 24) of floor ball players showed a positive methacholine challenge test (P < .05). Asthma, as defined by the study criteria, tended to be more prevalent in ice hockey players than in floor ball players (absolute values: 5/26 and 1/24, not significant; relative values: 19.2% and 4.1%, P < .05). A positive exercise challenge occurred in 3/26 and 1/24, respectively.
Bronchial hyperresponsiveness, asthma, and exercise-induced asthma occur more frequently in ice hockey players than in floor ball players.
The signs and symptoms attributable to asthma are often subtle and tend to be mistaken for being “out of shape.” Coaches, trainers, and the athletes themselves need to be made aware of the wide variability in symptomatology so the athlete may receive appropriate therapy which should enhance their sports participation. In some instances, asthma may not become evident under game conditions because actual playing time consists of frequent short periods of heavy exertion. On the other hand, during or after a prolonged practice session, all too often wheezing is observed. The rink or gym are excellent places to monitor lung function with a peak flow meter and take appropriate steps in the management of bronchospasm. My personal experience in exercise-induced asthma observed in athletes has made me a firm believer in the handy-dandy peak flow meter.