Prevalence of exercise-induced bronchospasm in a cohort of varsity college athletes

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Sep;39(9):1487-92. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b013e3180986e45.


Introduction: Exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) occurs more commonly in elite athletes than in the general population. There have been relatively few prevalence studies examining EIB in college athletes despite studies which have shown significant morbidity from asthma attacks related to exercise occurring in athletes in this age group. None of the previous studies utilized eucapnic voluntary hyperpnea (EVH) testing, which is the currently recommended test to document EIB in Olympians.

Methods: Varsity athletes at The Ohio State University underwent EVH testing to assess for EIB.

Results: One hundred seven athletes from 22 sports participated. Forty-two of 107 athletes (39%) were EIB positive according to EVH results. Thirty-six of 42 EIB-positive athletes (86%) had no prior history of EIB or asthma. There were no significant differences in the prevalence of EIB according to sex of the athlete (P=0.65) or ventilation demands of the sport (P=0.64). Symptoms were not predictive of EIB (P=0.44). The prevalence of EIB was 36% in athletes with negative symptoms and 35% for those with positive symptoms. Athletes in high-ventilation sports were significantly more symptomatic (48%) than athletes in low-ventilation sports (25%) (P=0.02); however, there was no difference in the prevalence of EIB between the two groups (P=0.64).

Conclusions: Varsity athletes show a high incidence of EIB when objectively diagnosed by a variety of pulmonary function criteria. Sex of the athlete or ventilation demands of the sport does not affect the prevalence of EIB. The use of symptoms to diagnose EIB is not predictive of whether athletes have objectively documented EIB. Empiric diagnosis and treatment of EIB on the basis of subjective symptoms alone may lead to an increased number of inaccurate diagnoses and increased morbidity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Universities