Swimmers, especially endurance swimmers, are more likely than other water sport competitors to have asthma, according to a new study of Olympic athletes.
Researchers found that about a quarter of competitors in swimming events had verified asthma, although it was more common among athletes from some parts of the world than others.
The intensity of swimmer training, or long hours spent in the water, may expose swimmers to more chlorine byproducts compared to divers or other athletes who spend less time breathing just at the water’s surface, experts said.
A long-term study would help distinguish “between athletes with asthma who self-select to swimming and those who have asthma as a result of exposure to endurance training practices,” said lead author Dr. Margo Mountjoy of McMaster University Waterloo campus in Ontario, Canada. […]
“I was not surprised to find that swimmers had a high prevalence of asthma,” Mountjoy told Reuters Health by email. “What was surprising for me to find was that there were significant differences between the endurance and non-endurance sports, as well as the distinct geographical distributions.”
More athletes from Oceania, Europe and North America had asthma than those from Asia, Africa and South America, the authors found.
“It was also interesting to find that although asthma is more prevalent in women than in men in the general population, this gender difference was not evident in the elite aquatic population,” Mountjoy said.
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