Screening adolescent athletes for exercise-induced asthma

Clin J Sport Med. 1996 Apr;6(2):119-23. doi: 10.1097/00042752-199604000-00010.


Objective: To pilot test an exercise-induced asthma (EIA) screening program using a submaximal step-test and pulmonary function test (PFT) to identify athletes with EIA and to determine if a physical examination or self-reported history could be used to predict the existence of EIA.

Design: Screening and diagnostic testing using a convenience sample.

Setting: Birmingham, Alabama, during athletic preparticipation examination (PPE).

Subjects: Fifty-two African-American, male football players aged 14-18 years being evaluated for participation in scholastic athletics. No athlete refused participation. Four were excluded because of need for further evaluation unrelated to any pulmonary condition.

Intervention: Each athlete completed a medical history, allergy history, physical examination, preexercise pulmonary function test (PFT), submaximal step-test, and a series of postexercise PFTs.

Main outcome measures: Major outcome measurements were changes in forced expiration volume in 1s (FEV1) or peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) after completing an exercise challenge.

Results: Seventeen of 48 athletes had a > or = 15% decrease in PEFR after exercise. Nine of 48 athletes had a > or = 15% decrease in FEV1 after exercise. The only self-reported item that differentiated subjects with normal and abnormal PFTs was a personal history of asthma (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Many athletes can be identified as having abnormal PFTs by use of a submaximal step-test as an exercise challenge. Self-reporting questionnaires and PPEs do not appear to be sensitive enough to identify athletes with this condition. If validated by future studies, this protocol could be used for the diagnosis of EIA.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma, Exercise-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Exercise Test*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Physical Examination
  • Pilot Projects
  • Respiratory Function Tests*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sports