n International SportMed Journal - The risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) in athletes : review article

Volume 4, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1528-3356



Infections of the upper respiratory tract (URTI) are the most common type of infection throughout the population. Only a nuisance to the average citizen, they may disrupt training continuity and interfere with performance in athletes.

The aim of the present review was to summarise the present epidemiological knowledge on the incidence of URTI in athletes and its association with influencing co-factors such as training-load, sporting discipline, nutrition and life-style related variables.
MEDLINE was searched for pro- and retrospective studies investigating URTI and involving athletes, the literature compilations appended to the retrieved publications were then scanned for related and relevant articles.
5 retrospective, 2 prospective and 3 randomised epidemiological studies involving athletes or having training and URTI as main issues were selected.
From these investigations, the number of subjects investigated, the analysed variables and the main outcomes were retained.
In the investigated studies, there is general consensus that strenuous acute or chronic exercise is associated with an increased incidence of URTI in athletes, whereas moderate exercise seems to be protective. Several other factors favouring the development of URTI have been identified. Lifestyle variables, such as high stress levels, sleep deprivation and dietary unawareness, are important co-factors in the immune response.Furthermore, several nutritional supplements such as vitamin C, zinc, or other immune stimulants have been identified to affect human immune competence. However, the clinical significance of these laboratory findings remains yet to be determined.

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