Purpose: The purpose of this project was to determine the incidence of exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) among U.S. Olympic winter sport athletes.
Methods: Subjects included female and male members of the 1998 U.S. Winter Olympic Team from the following sports: biathlon, cross-country ski, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, long-track speedskating, and short-track speedskating. Assessment of EIB was conducted in conjunction with an "actual competition" (Olympic Trials, World Team Trials, World Cup Event, U.S. National Championships) or a "simulated competition" (time trial, game), which served as the exercise challenge. Standard spirometry tests were performed preexercise and at 5, 10, and 15 min postexercise. An athlete was considered EIB-positive based on a postexercise decrement in FEV1 > or = 10%.
Results: For the seven sports evaluated on the 1998 U.S. Winter Olympic Team, the overall incidence of EIB across all sports and genders was 23%. The highest incidence of EIB was found in cross-country skiers, where 50% of the athletes (female = 57%; male = 43%) were diagnosed with EIB. Across the seven sports evaluated, the prevalence of EIB among the female and male athletes was 26% and 18%, respectively. Among those individuals found to be EIB-positive were athletes who won a team gold medal, one individual silver medal, and one individual bronze medal at the Nagano Winter Olympics.
Conclusions: These data suggest that: 1) EIB is prevalent in several Olympic winter sports and affects nearly one of every four elite winter sport athletes; 2) the winter sport with the highest incidence of EIB is cross-country skiing; 3) in general, EIB is more prevalent in female versus male elite winter sport athletes; and 4) athletes may compete successfully at the international level despite having EIB.