Predictors of Airway Hyperresponsiveness in Elite Athletes

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IntroductionElite athletes frequently experience asthma and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). We aimed to investigate predictors of airway pathophysiology in a group of unselected elite summer-sport athletes, training for the summer 2008 Olympic Games, including markers of airway inflammation, systemic inflammation, and training intensity.MethodsFifty-seven Danish elite summer-sport athletes with and without asthma symptoms all gave a blood sample for measurements of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-8 (IL-8), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), completed a respiratory questionnaire, and underwent spirometry. Bronchial challenges with mannitol were performed in all 57 athletes, and 47 agreed to perform an additional methacholine provocation.ResultsBased on a physician’s diagnosis, 18 (32%) athletes were concluded to be asthmatic. Asthmatic subjects trained more hours per week than the 39 nonasthmatics (median (min–max): 25 h·wk−1 (14–30) versus 20 h·wk−1 (11–30), P = 0.001). AHR to both methacholine and mannitol (dose response slope) increased with the number of weekly training h (r = 0.43, P = 0.003, and r = 0.28, P = 0.034, respectively). Serum levels of IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α, and hs-CRP were similar between asthmatics and nonasthmatics. However, there was a positive association between the degree of AHR to methacholine and serum levels of TNF-α (r = 0.36, P = 0.04). Fifteen out of 18 asthmatic athletes were challenged with both agents. In these subjects, no association was found between the levels of AHR to mannitol and methacholine (r = 0.032, P = 0.91).ConclusionAHR in elite athletes is related to the amount of weekly training and the level of serum TNF-α. No association was found between the level of AHR to mannitol and methacholine in the asthmatic athletes.

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