n International SportMed Journal - Impact of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction on athletic performance and airway health in rugby union players : original research




There is emerging evidence that the prevalence of exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) is significantly under-reported in many sports. There is little known about the potential performance improvement that may exist when sports players are detected and treated for EIB. Professional rugby union players with no previous history of asthma volunteered to participate in the study. Each player performed the rugby football union (RFU) fitness test and completed a eucapnic voluntary hyperpnoea (EVH) challenge at baseline and 12 weeks later. A player with a positive EVH result was prescribed beclomethasone inhaler (200 µg; two puffs per day) for 12 weeks. Players with a negative EVH test were randomly allocated to either a placebo inhaler group or acted as controls. Twenty-nine rugby union players (mean ± SD; age 22.1 ± 4.2 years; body mass 100.1 ± 6.9 kg; height 1.84 ± 0.07 m) were recruited. Seven players (24% of total) had a positive EVH challenge with a mean decrease in FEV1 of -13.6 ± 3.5 % from baseline. There was no significant group difference (P=0.359) in performance improvement of the RFU fitness test between the EVH positive group (mean Δ: -22.3 seconds; 8.0 ± 2.8% improvement), placebo group (mean Δ: -16.5 seconds; 6.7 ± 1.6% improvement), and controls (mean Δ: -12.2 seconds; 5.7 ± 3.5% improvement). Prevalence of EIB in professional rugby union players was 24%. A 12-week prescription of beclomethasone (200 µg) showed similar improvements in RFU fitness test performance in players diagnosed with EIB compared to players with healthy airway responsiveness.


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