Lower airway inflammatory responses to high-intensity training in athletes

Clin Invest Med. 2005 Feb;28(1):15-22.


Purpose: There is an increased prevalence of asthma and airway hyperresponsiveness in elite athletes, particularly in swimmers. High intensity exercise may induce airway inflammation and subsequent remodelling in these subjects. Our aim was to evaluate the effects of high-intensity training on induced-sputum cell populations in elite athletes.

Methods: Swimmers and runners with hyperresponsive airways (SH and RH), defined by a provocative concentration of methacholine inducing a 20% decrease in FEV1 (PC20) <16 mg/ml or with normoresponsive airways (PC20 > 16 mg/ml; SN, RN) to methacholine were enrolled. The mean PC20 was 2.27 mg/ml in SH (n=12), 32.2 in SN (n=10), 3.25 in RH (n=10) and 41.5 in RN (n=13). All athletes had two induced sputum analyses at one- to two-week intervals in random order: after a period of 72 hours without training, 24 hours after a training session.

Results: PC20 was unchanged after training. The median % neutrophils and eosinophils in groups SH, SN, RH, and RN, respectively, were 26.5-1.6, 8.6-0.3, 28.0-0.03 and 25.5-0.1 before and 45.0-0.5, 31.1-0.4, 54.0-0.6 and 48.3-0.3 after training. While the magnitude of the increase in neutrophils was similar for all groups, it reached statistical significance (pre-post-training) only in the SH group (P = 0.039).

Conclusion: A one-hour session of high-intensity training was associated with an increase in airway neutrophils among hyperresponsive swimmer athletes, while airway responsiveness remained unchanged in all groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced / pathology
  • Blood Cell Count
  • Eosinophils / cytology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation*
  • Jogging
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Respiratory System / pathology
  • Sports
  • Sputum / metabolism
  • Swimming
  • Time Factors