Paradoxical Vocal-Cord Dysfunction: Management in Athletes

J Athl Train. 2002 Sep;37(3):325-328.


OBJECTIVE: To describe a treatment strategy for paradoxical vocal-cord dysfunction (PVCD) as it applies to an athletic population. BACKGROUND: Paradoxical vocal-cord dysfunction has been identified as a cause of dyspnea and stridor in athletes. The basic element of PVCD is an inappropriate closure of the vocal cords during respiration, resulting in airway obstruction. This condition is familiar to speech-language pathologists and otolaryngologists yet remains poorly understood in the sports medicine community. Treatment strategies are even less understood. A therapeutic exercise program designed to promote diaphragmatic breathing may allow an athlete to gain control during episodes of dyspnea. Elimination of contributing or concomitant conditions is critical to resolution of the condition. DESCRIPTION: The treatment of PVCD requires an understanding of the pathoanatomy of the condition. The focus of the exercise program is on relaxation of the larynx and conscious activation of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles during respiration. The athlete must have a sense of laryngeal control while performing the exercises. In addition, the patient and practitioner must realize the amount of neuromuscular reeducation required to change breathing patterns. CLINICAL ADVANTAGES: This therapy may allow the athlete to gain control over episodic dyspnea, participate in athletic activities with fewer complications, and, perhaps, reduce or eliminate medications prescribed to treat suspected bronchospasm.