Point Prevalence of the Biomechanical Dimension of Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns Among Competitive Athletes

J Strength Cond Res. 2023 Feb 1;37(2):270-276. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000004253. Epub 2022 May 24.


Shimozawa, Y, Kurihara, T, Kusagawa, Y, Hori, M, Numasawa, S, Sugiyama, T, Tanaka, T, Suga, T, Terada, RS, Isaka, T, and Terada, M. Point prevalence of the biomechanical dimension of dysfunctional breathing patterns among competitive athletes. J Strength Cond Res 37(2): 270-276, 2023-There is growing evidence of associations between altered biomechanical breathing patterns and numerous musculoskeletal and psychological conditions. The prevalence of dysfunctional and diaphragmatic breathing patterns is unknown among athletic populations. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of dysfunctional and diaphragmatic breathing patterns among athletic populations with a clinical measure to assess the biomechanical dimension of breathing patterns. Using a cross-sectional design, 1,933 athletes across multiple sports and ages were screened from 2017 to 2020. Breathing patterns were assessed using the Hi-Lo test in the standing position. Scores of the Hi-Lo test were determined based on the presence or absence of abdominal excursion, anterior-posterior chest expansion, superior rib cage migration, and shoulder elevation. The Hi-Lo test scores were used to categorize observational breathing mechanics as dysfunctional and diaphragmatic breathing patterns. The prevalence of athletes with dysfunctional breathing patterns was 90.6% (1,751 of 1,933). Athletes with diaphragmatic breathing patterns accounted for 9.4% of all athletes in our sample (182 of 1,933). There were no differences in the proportion of breathing patterns between male and female athletes ( p = 0.424). Breathing patterns observations were associated with sport-setting categories ( p = 0.002). The highest percentages of dysfunctional breathers were in middle school student athletes (93.7%), followed by elementary school student athletes (91.2%), high school student athletes (90.6%), professional/semiprofessional athletes (87.5%), and collegiate athletes (84.8%). The current study observed that dysfunctional breathing patterns (90.6%) in the biomechanical dimension were more prevalent than diaphragmatic breathing pattern (9.4%) among competitive athletes. These results suggest that clinicians may need to consider screening breathing patterns and implementing intervention programs aimed to improve the efficiency of biomechanical dimensions of breathing patterns in athletic populations. This study may help raise awareness of impacts of dysfunctional breathing patterns on athletes' health and performance.

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Respiration
  • Sports*