The Role of Airway Inflammation and Bronchial Hyperresponsiveness in Athlete's Asthma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose Asthma is frequently reported in endurance athletes. The aim of the present study was to assess the long-term airway inflammatory response to endurance exercise in high-level athletes with and without asthma. Methods In a cross-sectional design, 20 asthmatic athletes (10 swimmers and 10 cross-country skiers), 19 athletes without asthma (10 swimmers and 9 cross-country skiers), and 24 healthy nonathletes completed methacholine bronchial challenge, lung function tests, and sputum induction on two separate days. All athletes competed on a national or international level and exercised ≥10 h·wk-1. The nonathletes exercised ≤5 h·wk-1 and reported no previous lung disease. Bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) was defined as a methacholine provocation dose causing 20% decrease in the forced expiratory volume in 1 s of ≤8 μmol. Results BHR was present in 13 asthmatic athletes (62%), 11 healthy athletes (58%), and 8 healthy nonathletes (32%), and the prevalence differed among groups (P = 0.005). Sputum inflammatory and epithelial cell counts did not differ between groups and were within the normal range. Median (25th to 75th percentiles) sputum interleukin-8 was elevated in both asthmatic (378.4 [167.0-1123.4]) and healthy (340.2 [175.5-892.4]) athletes as compared with healthy nonathletes (216.6 [129.5-314.0], P = 0.02). No correlations were found between provocation dose causing 20% decrease and sputum cell counts. Conclusion Independent of asthma diagnosis, a high occurrence of BHR and an increased sputum interleukin-8 were found in athletes as compared with nonathletes. Airway inflammation or epithelial damage was not related to BHR.


  • Julie Stang
  • Liv Ingunn Bjoner Sikkeland
  • Ellen Tufvesson
  • Are Martin Holm
  • Trine Stensrud
  • Kai Håkon Carlsen
External organisations
  • Norwegian School of Sport Sciences
  • University of Oslo
  • Oslo university hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Respiratory Medicine and Allergy
  • Sport and Fitness Sciences


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-666
Number of pages8
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 1
Publication categoryResearch