Ten centres of the research Network of Excellence GA²LEN, the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network, will be following athletes selected for the Olympic Games 2008 to assess the prevalence and diagnosis rates of asthma and allergies among top athletes in summer sports.
The pan-European study will allow scientists to specify the prevalence of asthma, exercise induced asthma and other allergic diseases among European athletes qualified for the Beijing Olympics, while identifying the differences in prevalence between a wide range of sports and between the different European regions. The study is part of GA²LEN joint research activities on sports and allergic diseases.
GA²LEN centres in ten countries are currently involved in the study, representing all geographical areas of Europe: Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Up to 2,000 athletes could be followed before, during and after the Olympic Games with regular clinical examinations measuring their lung function, bronchial responsiveness and asthma symptoms. Allergies will be examined with a skin prick test, and airways inflammation by means of exhaled nitric oxide will be measured. A respiratory laboratory run by GA²LEN scientists will be available in the Olympic Village in Beijing to provide care for athletes in need, in accordance to doping regulations. Clinical follow-up should also allow assessment of the impact of the local environment on potential symptoms.
According to earlier studies, about 20 percent of summer sports athletes have asthma . This proportion varies between different types of sports. Endurance sports in particular such as runners, swimmers, and cyclists, have been reported to have a high prevalence.