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Screening elite winter athletes for exercise induced asthma: a comparison of three challenge methods
  1. J W Dickinson1,
  2. G P Whyte1,
  3. A K McConnell2,
  4. M G Harries3
  1. 1English Institute of Sport, Bisham Abbey, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, UK
  2. 2Department of Sports Science, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK
  3. 3Department of Respiratory Medicine, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 J W Dickinson
 English Institute of Sport, Bisham Abbey, Marlow, Bucks SL7 1 RT, UK; john.dickinson{at}


Background: The reported prevalence of exercise induced asthma (EIA) in elite winter athletes ranges from 9% to 50%. Many elite winter athletes do not report symptoms of EIA. At present there is no gold standard test for EIA.

Objective: To establish the efficacy of screening for EIA and examine the role of the eucapnic voluntary hyperventilation (EVH) challenge and laboratory based and sport specific exercise challenges in the evaluation of elite winter athletes.

Methods: 14 athletes (mean (SD) age 22.6 (5.7) years, height 177.2 (7.0) cm, body mass 68.9 (16.9) kg) from the Great Britain short-track speed skating (n = 10) and biathlon teams (n = 4) were studied. Each athlete completed a laboratory based and sport specific exercise challenge as well as an EVH challenge, in randomised order.

Results: All 14 athletes completed each challenge. Two had a previous history of asthma. Ten (including the two with a previous history) had a positive test to at least one of the challenges. Ten athletes had a positive response to EVH; of these, only three also had a positive response to the sport specific challenge. No athletes had a positive response to the laboratory based challenge.

Conclusions: Elite athletes should be screened for EIA. EVH is a more sensitive challenge in asymptomatic athletes than sport specific and laboratory based challenges. If sporting governing bodies were to implement screening programmes to test athletes for EIA, EVH is the challenge of choice.

  • EIA, exercise induced asthma
  • EVH, eucapnic voluntary hyperventilation
  • FEF50, forced expiratory flow at 50% of forced vital capacity
  • FEV1, forced expiratory volume in one second
  • FEV1%, FEV1 as a percentage of forced vital capacity
  • FVC, forced vital capacity
  • IOC-MC, International Olympic Committee-Medical Commission
  • PEF, peak expiratory flow
  • exercise induced asthma
  • β2 agonist
  • eucapnic voluntary hyperventilation
  • exercise challenge

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  • Competing interests: none declared